Transport connectivity, logistics priorities and the industry’s economic recovery post-COVID-19 became an important subject of discussion during the ASEAN-China Transport Ministers’ Special Meeting on COVID-19.
Organised via video conference on July 16, the meeting was attended by transport ministers from ASEAN, its Secretary-General and China with the objective of ensuring the stability and openness of transport and logistics systems in the region amid COVID-19.
Brunei Darussalam’s Minister of Transport and Info-communications Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Abdul Mutalib POKSSDP Hj Mohd Yusof, was present in his capacity as Chairman of the ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting (ATM) for 2020.
“Transport connectivity is amongst one of the sectors tremendously affected by this pandemic,” the minister said in his opening remarks.
“There has been an overall reduction of passengers (both international and domestic) ranging from 48 to 61 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019,” he added, citing data from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other international bodies.
With many countries closing their borders and suspending international air travels, the minister acknowledged how the aviation sector represents one of the hardest-hit sectors during the COVID-19 crisis.
Airport revenues in 2020 are seeing an estimated loss of 57 per cent or over USD$97 billion while road freight operators, including those transporting essential goods, have seen revenues decrease by up to 40 percent.
“With 384 sailings cancelled, the first half of 2020 saw a 25 per cent reduction in shipping, with a 10 per cent annual fall in 2020,” he added.
Due to this, YB Dato Abdul Mutalib said that it was “vitally important” for countries involved to come together to discuss efforts to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and ensure the sustainability of the transport and logistics system in the region.
“The task is now before us to address the real challenges of today to further strengthen our cooperation and also set a path ensuring our priorities will meet the challenges of the future,” he said.
The minister expressed appreciation to China for working closely with ASEAN as a dialogue partner, noting how ASEAN and China have been actively engaged at all levels and through various ASEAN sectoral bodies in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic since its outbreak.
“The COVID-19 experience provides valuable lessons on how ASEAN and China can come together with coordinated and timely responses to disruptions,” added the minister.
Touching on ASEAN- China transport cooperation, YB Dato Abdul Mutalib mentioned that there are several agreements that have been agreed on in aviation and maritime sectors with many projects and initiatives successfully implemented.
“I hope we will continue building on this momentum. On this, I kindly seek the continued support from China to work together with us to advance our transport agenda towards the effective implementation of the ASEAN Transport Strategic Plan 2016-2025”.
The main outcome of the ASEAN-China Transport Ministers’ Special Meeting on COVID-10 was the adoption of the Joint Ministerial Statement titled ‘Ensuring Smooth Transport and Logistics to Combat COVID-19 and Reactivate the Economy’.
In the joint statement, the ASEAN-China Transport Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to enhance existing partnerships including facilitating the logistic activities in the delivery, supply and manufacture of essential goods during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In addition, they also agreed to increase the exchanges of information, knowledge and best practices, to jointly enhance the capability of pandemic control at land border crossings, seaports and airports whilst ensuring health precautions are in place.
The meeting was co-chaired by China’s Minister of Transport Li Xiaopeng.
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN