CONSULTATION MEETING. Assistant Secretary Junever M. Mahilum-West, director-general of the Asean-Philippines and Temporary SOM Leader of the Philippines, addresses Asean-China Senior Officials during the 26th Asean-China Senior Officials’ Consultation held via video conference on July 1, 2020. During the consultation meeting, the senior officials expressed commitment to continue and enhance health cooperation to combat Covid-19 through information exchange, sharing of best practices, capacity building of health personnel, and vaccine research production. (DFA photo)

MANILA – The 26th Asean-China Senior Officials’ Consultation was held via video conference for the first time on July 1 to review the progress in the Asean-China Strategic Partnership and discuss its future direction.

The Philippines, in its capacity as country coordinator for the Asean-China Dialogue Relations for 2018-2021, co-chaired the meeting with China, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a news release on Saturday.

Assistant Secretary Junever M. Mahilum-West, director-general of Asean-Philippines and the Philippine Temporary Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) leader, represented the Philippine delegation while Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong led the Chinese delegation.

Mahilum-West noted that since the establishment of the Asean-China Dialogue Partnership in 1991, mutually beneficial cooperation with China has expanded significantly across all three Asean Community pillars – political-security, economic, and socio-cultural.

In 2021, Asean and China will commemorate 30 years of their relations.

The senior officials exchanged views on developments in the region, including the collective aspiration, to agree on an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that will contribute to regional peace, security and stability, and is in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Asean and China discussed maritime cooperation initiatives to further build trust and confidence in the region.

The consultation meeting also expressed commitment to continue and enhance health cooperation to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) through information exchange, sharing of best practices, capacity building of health personnel, and vaccine research production.

“As we approach the 30th anniversary of our relations in 2021, we look forward to more comprehensive mechanisms to advance Asean-China cooperation in various priority areas. We hope to maximize our engagements towards positive outcomes in our region. This important partnership has proven instrumental in collectively responding to and mitigating the effects of Covid-19,” Mahilum-West said.

The meeting also highlighted 2020 as the Asean-China Year of Digital Economy Cooperation, with emphasis on initiatives to enhance digital connectivity, smart solutions, e-commerce, e-learning, and platforms to help support micro, small and medium enterprises to continue to boost economic growth, as well as the application of ICT-enabled responses to Covid-19. (PNA)