BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – ASEAN leaders on Friday agreed to take necessary measures in expediting recovery of Southeast Asian economies following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement issued after a virtual summit, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to alleviate the pandemic’s adverse impact on people’s livelihood, societies and economies. 

The statement added that this will be done through the implementation of a comprehensive recovery plan to improve stability and resilience of the regional economy and preserving supply chain connectivity, while staying vigilant of a second wave of infections.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, who joined the teleconference, said ASEAN’s recovery plan should prioritise initiatives that would help the region quickly overcome the impact of COVID-19. 

In his titah during the summit, he said initiatives such as the easing of travel restrictions  through a “region-wide modality that can be initiated bilaterally” can build confidence within ASEAN. 

This would enable the resumption of regional economic activities, beginning with the movement of professionals to ensure that essential services can continue, he added.

The sultan said this will allow the movement of goods to remain open and supply chains connected, as well as deepen economic integration to increase intra-ASEAN trade and investment.

He added that due to the current geopolitical uncertainty, ASEAN must foster strong and diverse partnerships to advance its achievements as a single community, which include engaging partners strategically; maintaining ASEAN centrality and building trust and confidence towards the region.

Current ASEAN chair Vietnam conducted the summit through teleconferencing for the first time due to the pandemic.

The coronavirus has infected more than 138,000 people in the region, with Indonesia topping the total number of cases at 50,187.