As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase with no foreseeable end in sight, Southeast Asian states have been struggling to stem the spread of the virus among their population, with mixed results. As countries that were initially successful in containing the outbreak now face a second wave of infections, the international community now realizes that cooperation and support are necessary to successfully combat COVID-19 and minimize its toll on people and the global economy.
On April 3, members of the ASEAN Institutes of Strategic and International Studies (ASEAN-ISIS) Network, of which the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress (APPFI) is the Philippine member, released a Policy Memorandum highlighting the need for cooperation and coordination among ASEAN member states, recommending strategies that the member states can undertake for the efficient and effective management of the pandemic and ways that ASEAN can complement these national measures. The memorandum discussed the following: (1) the immediate need of implementing health measures, (2) essential cross-border issues and supply chains, (3) increasing exchange of information and understanding of efforts taken by member states at the national level, and (4) institutional needs for ASEAN dialogue and cooperation.
For the Philippines, key concerns like the shortage of testing kits and protective equipment for medical professionals and allied health care workers, can be addressed regionally through resource sharing between member states. Meanwhile, the possibility of food insecurity due to the prolonged quarantine can be avoided by keeping supply chains open for essential goods like food, and refraining from imposing export bans and quotas.
In releasing the Policy Memorandum, we at the APPFI join the rest of the ASEAN-ISIS Network recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a danger to the lives and health of the peoples in the region, but also to the economic dynamism and spirit of cooperation in the ASEAN community. As such, we urge ASEAN to coordinate and cooperate as a group for mutual benefit and to offer leadership to the wider region.