The road to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is one where the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three (APT) are “equal partners,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said, adding the region must recognize the new opportunities for growth despite the crisis.
The APT meeting was held virtually on Tuesday, August 3, wherein Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. intervened to call for intensified regional cooperation in addressing the threats posed by the new variants of COVID-19.
“The APT was established not just to deepen political cooperation, but also to strengthen economic ties. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is an opportunity to demonstrate that the road to recovery is one where all are equal partners,” he said in addressing the other countries’ foreign ministers.
“Excellencies, we face a future permanently altered by the pandemic. It is in times like this that we all the more realize the value of the ASEAN Plus Three mechanism. If we move forward, we do so together, leaving no one behind, and with ASEAN at the center. Let us make our region the center of the Asian Century,” Locsin added.
The DFA chief recognized how the region “collectively adapted” to the challenges “unforeseen” before the pandemic, which ensures him “that we (APT) will overcome).”
He called on the regional leaders, from the 10 ASEAN member countries and their dialogue partners from South Korea, China, and Japan, to turn to digital technology as he sees it as a “tool for recovery and resilience in this the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Locsin underscored the importance of ensuring peace, stability, and freedom of navigation in the region because “our are a source of sustenance, vital avenues for communication, transportation, trade and people-to-people linkages.”
“To this end we need to stabilize existing supply chains and support new ones, to overcome vulnerabilities the pandemic has exposed about regional trade and people-to-people ties in a calamity,” he added.
Since micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are the most affected by the pandemic, Locsin called for this sector’s protection.
“The recovery of micro, small, and medium enterprises is integral to the region’s post-pandemic recovery. They need to be equipped with the necessary tools to face disruptive technologies prompted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and digitalization,” he said.
The APT cooperation process began in December 1997 and was formalized in 1999. Since then, the APT became an “important driver” in East Asian regional cooperation.