Mr Desmond Choo:To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) how has Singapore supported ASEAN countries in mitigating the effects of COVID-19; and (b) how can Singapore help to build a concerted effort for better COVID-19 and pandemic management in ASEAN.
Dr Lim Wee Kiak:To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) how much of Singapore's contribution to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund has been used to procure critical supplies; (b) with the worsening of the COVID-19 situation in some ASEAN countries, whether Singapore is exploring further solutions and provision of resources; and (c) how many countries have approached Singapore for bilateral assistance and how has Singapore responded to their requests.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have provided assistance to a number of ASEAN Member States. Following the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Indonesia, we have launched an “Oxygen Shuttle” programme to send more than 500 tonnes of liquid oxygen in regular shipments to Indonesia from July to August 2021. We have also provided oxygen cylinders, ventilators, and oxygen concentrators, as well as medical supplies and equipment, such as surgical and N95 masks, gloves, and gowns. These were dispatched in two batches from Paya Lebar Air Base on 9 July and Changi Naval Base on 11 July respectively. We had previously sent Universal Transport Media (UTM) swabs, hand sanitisers, and face masks to Malaysia, as well as COVID-19 diagnostic tests and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine to Brunei.
We also contributed 3,000 diagnostic tests and one polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine to the Philippines in March 2020. A total of 27,000 diagnostic tests, two PCR machines, one million surgical masks, and 200,000 bottles of hand sanitiser were also sent to Myanmar in March and October 2020.
Furthermore, PM has also announced that Singapore intends to donate our vaccine allocation through the COVAX Facility to other countries. The COVAX Facility is a global vaccine distribution scheme that aims to guarantee fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries.
Many Singapore-based private sector entities and philanthropic organisations have also played crucial roles. Temasek Foundation made generous donations of diagnostic tests, PCR machines, oxygen concentrators, ventilators, and BiPAP machines to Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, while the Singapore Red Cross has also donated surgical masks and coveralls to our ASEAN neighbours. Likewise, some of our neighbours, such as Thailand and Vietnam have donated medical supplies to us in our times of need.
We remain committed to working together with our neighbours. We are exploring the provision of further assistance to our neighbours, and will continue to support regional and global efforts to combat the virus.
Turning to ASEAN, Singapore has actively contributed to ASEAN’s efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we pushed for ASEAN to coordinate its response and this resulted in the establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Council Working Group on Public Health Emergencies. In 2020, the Working Group agreed to, among others, establish the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund.
PM Lee announced Singapore’s contribution of USD 100,000 to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund at the 37thASEAN Summit in November last year. This added to the initial contribution from all ASEAN Member States, and numerous other pledges we have received from individual ASEAN Member States as well as ASEAN’s external partners. Since then, ASEAN has agreed to use the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund to purchase vaccines for ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. This effort, which is underway, is led by Brunei as the ASEAN Chair and the ASEAN Secretariat.
Mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic goes beyond medical supplies. We need a multi-prong strategy for the region’s recovery from COVID-19. Consequently, we supported the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its Implementation Plan launched by the ASEAN Leaders last November. Beyond enhancing health systems, the Implementation Plan also addresses steps that the region must take to strengthen human security, improve economic integration, accelerate digital transformation, while working towards a more sustainable and resilient future.
Singapore has actively engaged in discussions with ASEAN Member States on various initiatives to improve the region’s response to future public health emergencies. ASEAN announced the launch of an ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies in November last year. Singapore supports the Centre’s establishment as this will help boost the long-term capacity of ASEAN Member States to detect and respond to emerging diseases.
We also finalised the ASEAN Strategic Framework for Public Health Emergencies and agreed to start an ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies. The Framework is envisioned to provide ASEAN’s standard operating procedures in response to public health emergencies, strengthen the capacity of ASEAN’s public health networks and complement existing ASEAN agreements on health matters and relevant international agreements.
Tackling the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in ASEAN is not something Singapore or any ASEAN Member State can do alone. We will continue to support ASEAN’s efforts, as well as work with our external partners to forge our response to the scourge of COVID-19. No one is truly safe until everyone is safe.
Mr Alex Yam Ziming:To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he can provide an update on the Ministry’s assessment of any meaningful progress on the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point consensus for an end to violence and start of dialogue in Myanmar.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: The Five-Point Consensus was agreed to by all the ASEAN Leaders and the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar military. The Five-Point Consensus called for (i) the immediate cessation of violence and all parties to exercise utmost restraint, (ii) commencement of constructive dialogue among all parties to seek a peaceful solution, (iii) the appointment of a special envoy or envoys of the ASEAN Chair to facilitate mediation and (iv) for the envoy(s) to be given access to all parties concerned; and (v) the provision of humanitarian assistance through the AHA Centre. ASEAN Leaders also called for the release of all political detainees. Brunei, in its capacity as ASEAN Chair for 2021, visited Myanmar from 3 to 5 June 2021 with the ASEAN Secretary General to hold preliminary discussions with the Myanmar military authorities.
ASEAN Member States are working on the implementation of the Consensus, including the nomination of an ASEAN envoy comprising a team of eminent individuals, the modalities of sending such an envoy, as well as how and when to disburse humanitarian assistance.
The implementation of the Five-Point Consensus has been very slow so far, and we are working within ASEAN to expedite this process. It is imperative that the Myanmar military authorities uphold their commitment to implement the Five-Point Consensus, which is totally unrelated to their Five-Point Roadmap. The stakeholders in Myanmar must decide to come together to seek genuine dialogue, negotiation, and reconciliation. There are no quick fixes for the situation in Myanmar. The process is a difficult one, and will take time. Singapore, along with ASEAN, stands ready to help.
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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
26 JULY 2021