The Philippines called on its partners within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Plus Three (APT) to intensify cooperation toward pandemic response and recovery as the world continues to battle the coronavirus and its variants.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the APT must sustain the transition to a digital economy, particularly by micro, small and medium enterprises.
In his omnibus intervention during the meeting that included South Korea, China, and Japan, and was held virtually, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. highlighted the importance of MSMEs in the region’s post-pandemic recovery.
“The micro is equally as important as the macro. The recovery of micro, small, and medium enterprises is integral to the region’s post-pandemic recovery,” he said.
“They need to be equipped with the necessary tools to face disruptive technologies prompted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and digitalization,” he added.
He emphasized the need to ensure the safe movement of people across East Asia, restore the stability of supply chains, maintain regional connectivity initiatives, and ensure the peaceful use of the sea under the rule of law.
The APT cooperation began in December 1997 with the convening of an informal summit among the leaders of Asean and the three other nations on the sidelines of the Second Asean Informal Summit in Malaysia.
The APT Summit was formalized in 1999 and has since become an important driver for advancing East Asian regionalism.
Meanwhile, the DFA said it repatriated 382 distressed Filipinos from the United Arab Emirates.
The repatriates took a DFA-chartered Cebu Pacific flight, the eighth to be mounted since June, bringing to 4,106 the total number of Filipinos sent home from the UAE.
The 382 repatriates, including seven pregnant women, arrived in Davao and were relieved to be soon returning home to their families.
Upon arrival, they were assisted by representatives of the city government of Davao, the DFA Regional Consular Office in Davao, Department of Health, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Philippine Coast Guard.
The DFA also provided each of the repatriates USD200, or P10,000 as reintegration assistance.
In compliance with health and safety protocols, all passengers were administered reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction tests within 48 hours before they departed from the UAE and allowed to board only if the tests yielded negative results.
They will undergo stringent quarantine in facilities provided by Davao City and the OWWA. They will also be tested again before the end of their quarantine.
“The DFA and partner agencies continue to work closely together to ensure that our distressed kababayans are repatriated and brought home safely, taking into consideration the interest of public health,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said in a statement.
At least five more DFA-chartered repatriation flights are scheduled this month for Filipinos in the UAE, who wish to return to the Philippines.
The Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai will continue to accept applications from Filipinos in the UAE who wish to join the chartered flights.*PNA/PR