Southeast Asian leaders opened a regional summit Thursday with plans to adopt a comprehensive recovery blueprint to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic that affected their people and economies.
It may take years to recuperate from the economic losses from the pandemic but the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must sustain efforts to fight the pandemic and secure recovery, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at the summit’s virtual opening ceremony.
President Duterte was among the Southeast Asian leaders attending the regional summit via video conference, during which they are expected to sign a regional economic deal.
The assembly, under the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN,” comes amid the raging pandemic that infected more than 52 million people and claimed over a million lives worldwide.
“Our task is two-fold: To fight the pandemic and to secure recovery accordingly. We will adopt the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its implementation plan,” the Prime Minister of Vietnam said in his remarks.
To help revitalize development amid the pandemic, he said plans for stabilizing production and supply chain, strengthening connectivity, and restoring trade in the region are already under way.
The regional bloc will also promote safe travel for business and investors amid the pandemic.
In the short term, he said they may consider putting in place ASEAN travel corridor arrangement framework for ASEAN citizens.
The ASEAN chair also recognized that the region and the rest of world are going through “incredibly difficult times” as the pandemic threatens the lives and livelihood of the people.
“The economic and social lives are in further disarray further aggravated by severe natural disasters,” he said.
“The fruits of social progress and economic development accumulated over decades risk evaporated and may take years to recuperate from losses,” he added.
He said ASEAN must focus its resources and efforts to curb the threat of the coronavirus.
Vaccines and effective treatment must also be readily available while healthcare capacity must be enhanced to respond to medical emergencies.
“We need to step up ways to assist our businesses in restoring production, trade, work and livelihood for people,” he said.
So far, the Vietnamese leader said the ASEAN member-states have established the ASEAN response fund with the pledges reaching $10,000.
The fund will be made available to countries in need of assistance in combating the pandemic.
ASEAN will also establish a regional reserve of essential medical supplies as well as establish the ASEAN center for public health emergencies and emerging diseases with the help of Japan.