Singapore

Singapore to donate $7.9m of medical supplies to Asean

Three new facilities in the pipeline for swift and equitable distribution of vaccines in region

Singapore will contribute medical supplies worth $7.9 million to a regional reserve as part of the city-state's support for Asean's collective effort to prepare for future public health emergencies, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced yesterday.

To help with the swift and equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in the region, Singapore is also ramping up cold chain logistics services and expanding vaccine manufacturing capabilities, with three new facilities in the pipeline.

PM Lee was at a virtual Asean Summit with his counterparts from South-east Asia, at the start of three days of meetings chaired by Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Outlining areas in which Asean could cooperate further, PM Lee cited the need to improve access to vaccines and noted that Singapore has donated to other countries its vaccine allocation through the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) facility.

The initiative, backed by the World Health Organisation, aims to give people in poor countries access to vaccines. However, it has suffered logistical difficulties and vaccine shortages.

PM Lee also noted Singapore will be contributing its allocation of the Covid-19 Asean Response Fund to other member states and the Asean Secretariat. The fund serves as a pool of financial resources for the group to purchase vaccines, among other pandemic efforts.

ABSENCE

Asean leaders convened their annual summit for the first time without Myanmar yesterday after its military junta boycotted the event in protest at being excluded.

The virtual meetings continued in Myanmar's absence amid a deepening political crisis there following the unpopular Feb 1 military coup.

With the question of Myanmar's rightful government still unsettled, Asean had invited a senior civil servant rather than junta chief Min Aung Hlaing to represent the country.

The junta declined to appoint such a representative, but its foreign ministry last night denied it was boycotting Asean.

"Myanmar will continue to constructively cooperate with Asean, including in implementing the five-point consensus," it said.

Yesterday, PM Lee also urged his regional counterparts to step up the process of ratifying the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world's largest trade pact involving all 10 Asean members, plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

The pact was concluded last year but needs the ratification of at least six Asean members and three others. Singapore was the first to do so in April this year.

"In these difficult times, we must work even harder on economic integration," said PM Lee. "The RCEP will boost confidence in regional trade and investment, and contribute significantly towards the region's post-pandemic economic recovery. I look forward to the swift ratification of the RCEP by all Asean member states and partners, for the agreement to enter into force by January 2022 as planned."

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