Initiatives to ensure the resilience of ASEAN transport sectors amidst the COVID-19 pandemic took centre stage during the 26th ASEAN Transports Ministers (ATM) Meeting recently with several key deliverables being endorsed. 

The virtual 26th ATM Meeting discussed policy measures to support the implementation of initiatives and programmes related to the transport sector under the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), which was approved during the recent 37th ASEAN Summit. 

The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Transportation and Infocommunications, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Abd Mutalib POKSDP Hj Mohd Yusof, in his capacity as Chairman of the ATM Meeting for 2020. 

The minister stated how the COVID-19 pandemic has grown beyond health crisis and how it has made a profound impact on the transport and logistics sectors which affected regional and global supply chains. 

Image: Courtesy of MTIC

Citing data from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as of November 12, YB Dato Abd Mutalib explained how there is an overall reduction of air passengers ranging from 59 per cent to 60 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019. 

Airports are experiencing an estimate loss of approximately 60 per cent of passenger traffic and 61 per cent or over USD$104.5 billion airport revenues in 2020 compared to business as usual. 

Airlines, on the other hand, are going through a 54.7 per cent decline of revenue passenger kilometres, both international and domestic in 2020 compared to 2019. 

“As we continue to navigate this critical moment, we are reminded again of the importance of the transport sector to be one of the drivers of economic growth, even more so, for post-COVID-19 and beyond,” he said in his opening remarks. 

“The document (the ACRF) sets priorities for ASEAN sectoral bodies and other broader stakeholders, including the private sector and dialogue partner to coordinate on the reopening of the economy based on the 3Rs phased approach, Re-opening, Recovery and Resilience,” he added.

The MTIC minister then explained that the role transportation plays in the implementation of the ACRF is two folds under the relevant broader strategies including maximising the potential of the intra-ASEAN market and broadening its economic integration.

Image: Shutterstock

“One of the early lessons of the pandemic was the importance of maintaining transport connectivity and the cross-border movement of essential goods,” he said, adding that it was only made possible with the collective responses at the country, regional and global levels. 

“The unfolding crisis, however, has taught us a very important lesson – our response, not only has to be effective, but must also be sustainable,” he continued. 

Image: Shutterstock

“By this, I mean our preparedness and readiness in terms of responding to future pandemics and absorbing future shocks,” YB Dato Abd Mutalib added. 

He went on to note the development of several important and timely initiatives by the relevant transport working groups in responding to the pandemic and supporting the ACRF implementation. 

These initiatives include the ‘ASEAN-wide operational guidelines on COVID-19 for the protection and safety of passengers and operational aircrew’ to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission and enable the recovery of air travel within ASEAN in a safe manner. 

The minister also mentioned the ‘ASEAN Database on Trade Routes and Framework for Enhancing Supply Chain Efficiency’, an initiative that is within the context of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025. 

The database aims at helping ASEAN businesses to lower costs of transport and further facilitate ways of doing business towards strengthening ASEAN’s competitiveness and foster regional inclusive growth and development. 

In addition, a total of seven key deliverables were also approved by the meeting; 

– Annual Priorities / Key Deliverables for 2021

Image: Courtesy of MTIC

– Recommendations of the Mid-Term Review of the Kuala Lumpur Transport Strategic Plan (KLTSP) 2016-2025 and the Revised Schedule of Actions of the KLTSP 2016-2025

– Implementing Protocol-2 (IP2): Aviation Training Organisations of Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Flight Crew Licensing (MRA on FCL)

– ASEAN Air Navigation Service (ANS) Master Plan

– ASEAN-wide COVID-19 Operational Guidelines

– Guidelines for improving the standard procedure for reporting road crashes in the ASEAN Member States based on UN standards

– ASEAN Land Transport Network Map

Despite the challenges and vulnerabilities faced by the transport and logistics system due to the coronavirus, the minister went on to note how the pandemic has also given rise to new innovative solutions in terms of the digitalised facilitation of transport processes. 

“Hence, let us seize upon this opportunity towards improving logistics competitiveness and efficiency in order to support the realisation of a seamlessly connected ASEAN,” he said. 

“In short, let us move forward together in unity and solidarity for a successful transition to the ‘new and digital normal’,” he concluded. 

The 26th ATM also approved the adoption of the Brunei Declaration on Road Safety 2020 which supports the commitment and cooperation of ASEAN member states in reducing the number of road fatalities by 50 per cent from 2020 to 2030. 

The declaration covers the need of achieving objectives in engineering, education, and enforcement, reducing road deaths and injuries for Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs), such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and people with disabilities or mobility through a comprehensive safety and security system as well as cultivating best practices for road safety.

Image: Shutterstock

The meeting also launched and screened the ASEAN Road Safety Video, which is a compilation of videos from each ASEAN member country that include efforts to improve road safety and reduce road fatalities in the ASEAN region for the next decade. 

The 26th ATM Meeting was then followed by a meeting between ASEAN Transport Ministers and China during the 19th ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting and China (19th ATM + China) which was co-chaired by YB Dato Abd Mutalib and China’s Minister of Transport, Li Xiaopeng. 

The meeting reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen collective response in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure the smooth running of the transport and logistics services sector in supporting the recovery process. 

The Transport Ministers also welcomed China’s initiative to jointly provide a five-year successor Action Programme (2021-2025) under the ASEAN-China Transport Cooperation.

The 18th ASEAN and Japan Transport Ministers Meeting (18th ATM + Japan) also took place and was chaired jointly by Japan’s State Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) Iwai Shigeki. 

Image: Shutterstock

The meeting approved three (3) new initiatives namely;

– Guideline for Capacity / Performance Evaluation of Container Terminals in the ASEAN Region; 

– Guideline on Maritime Safety Information Provision Service to small boats in the ASEAN region

– ASEAN-Japan Action Plan on Environment Improvement in the Transport Sector 2021-2025. 

The meeting also approved the new ASEAN-Japan Transport Partnership (AJTP) Work Plan for 2020-2021.

Subsequently, the meeting also approved three (3) key deliverables under the implementation of AJTP Work Plan 2019-2020 on strategies to promote navigation, maintenance of navigation routes in the ASEAN region and safety measures related to ship routes in the ASEAN region.

This was then followed by the 12th Minister of Transport of ASEAN and Korea (12th ATM + ROK) meeting, which was co-chaired by Korea’s Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Myoung Soo Son. 

Image: Shutterstock

The meeting approved the renewed ASEAN-ROK Transport Cooperation Roadmap 2021-2025 with a focus on human resource development, development consultations, feasibility studies on infrastructure and technology as well as management.

Apart from the dialogue partners, the ASEAN Transport Ministers also held meetings with the United States-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC), among others, aimed at exchanging views to ensure the smooth flow of ASEAN transport during the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

The meeting was also attended by the Secretary General of ASEAN, Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi.

This article was first published on November 28, 2020 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 117

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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