AN INCLUSIVE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that promotes the free flow of information among member-states is needed to fortify the region amid the Covid-19 pandemic, speakers in this year’s UST Model Asean Meeting (MAM) said.

Samira Gutoc, a former legislator in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said Asean member-states should share anti-Covid-19 policies and information.

“Asean was created to come together and assert its territorial integrities and cooperation… We’ve never had this disease of global proportions, kaya ang naging responses natin ay kanya-kanya,” she said.

The region ended February with almost 2.5 million Covid-19 cases.

In the 36th Asean Summit last year, President Rodrigo Duterte said greater cooperation and intraregional connectivity within Asean nations were needed for the region to thrive under the “new normal” brought about by the Covid-19 crisis.

Digitized commerce

Allan Gepty, assistant secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry’s Industry Development and Trade Policy Group, said Asean should promote e-commerce to sustain businesses amid stringent health protocols.

“One of the objectives of the Asean is to integrate the 10 economies in the region and one way to strengthen integration is to have a stable and predictable platform when it comes to regulating and even administering activities being conducted online, and one of them would be e-commerce,” he said. 

Gepty said Asean member-states should also adhere to unified rules and regulations in e-commerce so that foreign investors would find it easier to invest.

“When it comes from the perspective of business persons or the investors… they would know the basic rules and regulations are the same. In other words, we eliminate uncertainty,” he said. 

In a policy brief released in July 2020, the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department noted the lack of information and communications technology projects under the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program, which it said would have helped in strengthening the country’s e-commerce and digital transformation.

UST MAM 2021 was organized by the Asian Studies program of the Faculty of Arts and Letters. It was held via Zoom last Feb. 13.


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