SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano appealed to the members of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) Caucus for more cooperation towards a coherent, multi-sectoral, and whole-of-ASEAN response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
"There is no better and more opportune time for the parliaments, nations, and peoples of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to cooperate, as very good neighbors and friends, to help one another in this time of pandemic," Cayetano said in his opening message during the 11th AIPA caucus which the Philippines hosted yesterday, August 14.
He also commended the participation of his ASEAN counterparts, saying it is an indication of the region's resolve to bounce back and recover from the challenges of the pandemic.
This is the first-ever virtual caucus meeting of the AIPA, with the theme "We Heal as One: Parliamentary Cooperation towards Mitigating Risks and Strengthening Economic Resilience in the Period of Pandemic.”
The Philippine Delegation is composed of Representatives Abraham Tolentino, Ann Hofer, Stella Luz Quimbo, and Jesus "Bong" Suntay as well as Delegation Secretary Novel Bangsal.
For this year's caucus, AIPA aims to deepen parliamentary coordination on the pandemic's economic impact in Southeast Asia.
It also seeks to assist in facilitating dialogues and consultations among member parliaments on economic recovery and resilience as well as on other reforms towards boosting the capability of member nations to overcome similar crises in the future.
Cayetano urged the ASEAN lawmakers to move beyond efforts to contain COVID-19 in their respective territories and embrace a similar sense of urgency to push for regional economic recovery.
"This will require close coordination across sectors and community pillars, as well as dialogues with various stakeholders," he told the AIPA member-participants.
Cayetano said the challenges the member countries face today give AIPA “the profound opportunity as a region to adapt and readjust for a more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery and growth for ASEAN.”
"Protecting the health and safety of our peoples must also be our utmost priority," he added.
Cayetano highlighted the legislative initiatives done by the Philippine Congress to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, specifically citing the "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act" which enabled the Philippine government to implement emergency relief measures a few weeks after the enhanced community quarantine was imposed in the National Capital Region and many other areas in the country.
"As a result of this law, we have aggressively increased our capacity to conduct more tests per capita, rigorous contact tracing, and treatment to all patients," he said.
Cayetano told the AIPA members that Congress is set to pass a new measure, known as the "Bayanihan to Recover as One,” to provide proactive response and recovery interventions.
The House of Representatives and the Senate have already approved their respective versions of the measure and will soon finalize it through a bicameral conference committee.