Malaysia firmly believes ASEAN continues to play critical role addressing COVID-19 challenges — PM Muhyiddin

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 — Malaysia firmly believes that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) continues to play a critical role in addressing challenges brought by the pandemic through the implementation of the many initiatives discussed through the various ASEAN-led mechanisms.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in his intervention at the 37th ASEAN Summit plenary session today, said what is required now is ensuring these initiatives serve as the platform for ASEAN to work collectively, with external partners and other interested parties in alleviating and countering the impacts of COVID-19 in the region.

“This is especially true when it comes to the development and access to COVID-19 vaccine. ASEAN must work hand-in-hand with relevant international organisations such as the World Health Organisation and countries to ensure the vaccine, once it has been approved, is affordable, accessible and equitably shared by all,” he said.

The Prime Minister is leading the Malaysian delegation at the biannual summit virtually from here (Kuala Lumpur) which run till Sunday.

The summit is chaired by Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in his capacity as ASEAN Chair 2020 under the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN.”

Muhyiddin added that Malaysia welcomes any external partners that are willing to share their discovery and expertise on this matter.

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin said that as a regional bloc comprising mainly of developing states, it is imperative to focus on the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework.

“I am happy to see that my initial proposal earlier this year has become a reality which we will endorse today,” he said.

The ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework is one of the three official documents that will be released at this summit. Other official documents are the Mid-term Review of ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies for Public Health Emergencies.

The prime minister said ASEAN should strategise its approach in reviving the economy, trade and investment by embracing the new norm of conducting its economic engagement including through technology such as digital platforms.

Muhyiddin said, to this end, the movement of goods and services including critical infrastructure such as ports and airports, including logistical networks, remain accessible and tailored to suit the new norm in order to maintain and sustain economic growth in these challenging times.

The prime minister said that essential movement through Travel Corridors must be given priority, such as a coordinated set of procedures and requirements between the Member States, as the enabling movement of people in the region will also help drive economic growth.

“It is crucial for ASEAN’s economic recovery plan to encompass not only financial considerations but also address the need to forge an integrated, robust and sturdy regional partnership to preserve the rich social fabric which underpins the ASEAN Community,” he said.

Muhyiddin said as a region blessed with rich natural resources, it is time to look into possible ways to strengthen food security in the region.

ASEAN, he said, should seize this opportunity to fortify the agro-foundation that the region has with the global supply chain greatly disrupted.

Also part of the Malaysian delegation to the 37th ASEAN Summit is Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein as well as Senior Minister and International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

ASEAN, established in 1967, comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

— BERNAMA

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