ASEAN governments must materialise cohesive plans to quickly implement measures for "travel bubbles" between 'green' ASEAN member states, said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today (June 26) at the 36th ASEAN Summit.
He said the plan is crucial to shore up investments and create job opportunities for the people in the region.
The "green bubble" or "green lane" concept involves easing travel restrictions between two or more countries where local COVID-19 infections and cases are low.
"Possibly in the near future, we can also open up our borders for intra-ASEAN tourism to flourish and deliver the much-needed financial boost into our national economies," Muhyiddin said at the 36th ASEAN Summit, held virtually and hosted by Vietnam. Muhyiddin joined the virtual summit from here.
Muhyiddin said Malaysia also supports and shares the view of Sultan Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo that ASEAN officials should begin work on the establishment of an ASEAN travel bubble.
"As a first step, we can explore the possibility of sectoral exemptions for travel restrictions such as medical tourism, or high-value economic visits", he said.
Muhyiddin stressed that the public health crisis has had profound impacts on the economy and rebooting the regional economy must be ASEAN's utmost priority to mitigate disruptions to trade and strengthen the resilience of our regional supply chains.
The Prime Minister said as Malaysia proposed in April, ASEAN must formulate a Regional Economic Recovery Plan as countries in the region are fighting for economic survival.
He said if ASEAN doesn’t protect its regional economies, the wider disparity in growth among the ASEAN countries may harm the regional grouping's objective of greater economic integration.
"We must act swiftly and decisively in coordinating a regional level response in revitalising our economies. A well-coordinated response will ensure we emerge (from) this crisis stronger together, much like how we have weathered previous crises," he added.
Muhyiddin said together with ASEAN colleagues, Malaysia will also work towards the conclusion and signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) this year.
He added that Malaysia stands ready to engage with India on the latter’s continued participation in the RCEP, which Malaysia believe would contribute to regional prosperity.