Speaker asks ASEAN to unite vs COVID

Alan Peter Cayetano

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday called on members of the ASEAN  Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) Caucus to cooperate towards a  coherent, multi-sectoral, and whole of Association of South East Asian  Nations (ASEAN) approach to an effective response to the coronavirus  disease-19 (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 on Friday, August  14.

He also commended the participation of his ASEAN counterparts, sayin it is an indication of the region's resolve to bounce back and recover  from the challenges of the pandemic.

Cayetano delivered the opening address in the first-ever virtual caucus meeting of the AIPA, which carries 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.

In his opening remarks, 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.

Cayetano said the House is also working on “new and indispensable  legislative frameworks” to institutionalize national preparedness and  response mechanisms for this COVID-19 and future pandemics, such as:  (1) amending labor laws to adapt to alternative work arrangements; (2)  updating regulations to optimize the digital economy; (3) upholding  the youth's right to education to prepare them for tomorrow's threats  and opportunities; and (4) pump-priming infrastructure activities for  health, education, agriculture, and micro, small, and medium-scale  enterprises’  livelihood that can generate a valuable multiplier  effect on the economy.