SINGAPORE - Even as Asean combats the coronavirus, it also has to prepare for the post-pandemic-normal and continue to cooperate in areas of common interest, said Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin.
This includes more recent areas of collaboration, such as cyber security and developing smart cities, as well as longer-standing ones like stopping transboundary crime and tackling climate change, he added on Tuesday (Sept 8).
"This will ensure that Asean remains resilient and relevant in the decades to come," said Mr Tan, who was speaking on day one of the 41st general assembly of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (Aipa).
Aipa comprises all 10 Parliaments of Asean and holds a yearly forum where members exchange views and specific committees discuss and adopt resolutions on regional matters.
The forum was held virtually this year, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Tan led the Singapore delegation of 18 MPs, which included Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jessica Tan and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh.
In his speech during the forum, which will run till Thursday, Mr Tan noted that how Asean responds to Covid-19 will impact the regional organisation in the decades to come.
He called for a coordinated and well-calibrated approach to regional challenges, and stressed the importance of strengthening existing regional cooperation efforts to the outbreak, to go beyond the health sector and include the pandemic's implications on the economy as well the livelihoods of citizens.
Parliamentarians have an important role to play in representing the needs of their citizens and supporting their respective countries' responses to Covid-19, he said, adding that MPs are in a strong and unique position to promote understanding and awareness of Asean.
Said Mr Tan: "This is ever more important, as regional and international cooperation will be critical in restoring transnational travel, supply chain connectivity and economic activity in the wake of the pandemic."
Member countries will need to continue using Asean's platforms like Aipa to foster greater cooperation and building mutual understanding, trust and confidence, he said, so that all 10-members can weather the Covid-19 storm together.
"We will need to work closely together and with our external partners, including through the sharing of information and best practices, to remain responsive and safeguard the well-being of our peoples," he added.