Published: 27 November 2020
Excellencies from ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good morning.
1. It gives me great pleasure to attend the 8th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management (AMMDM) and the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to AADMER. I would like to congratulate the Philippines, for its able leadership as the ACDM and AMMDM Chair through 2020, and for successfully organising the series of meetings leading up to today’s AMMDM.
Advancing Transformation Towards a Safer, Adaptive, Inclusive and Resilient ASEAN and realising our ASEAN vision as the Global Leader in Disaster Management
2. It has been a challenging year with COVID-19 affecting the lives of communities around the world. ASEAN was not spared. ASEAN is home to more than 600 million people and is reportedly the most disaster-prone region in the world. This year alone, apart from COVID-19, ASEAN Member States in the Mekong Region had to deal with the effects of tropical storms Linfa and Nangka while Typhoon Molave and Super Typhoon Goni battered the Philippines and Vietnam. These natural disasters that occurred in the midst of COVID-19 strained the resources of National Disaster Management Organisations. International travel restrictions and Safe Management Measures also made it challenging for international Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) organisations to deliver aid.
3. The pandemic, despite being disruptive, has become a catalyst for transformation. It has changed the way we live, work and play as we learnt how to leverage technology and online platforms. Today’s virtual meeting is a good example of how we have successfully adapted. We need to transform the way we work and collaborate in the ‘new normal’.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Disaster Management in Singapore
4. Singapore has embraced the use of technology in our COVID-19 response.The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) rolled out a suite of digital tools and solutions to manage the outbreak, such as the TraceTogether and Safe Entry applications for contact tracing, and the collation of data on crowd density at various locations to manage crowd levels. We have also stepped up communications using messaging apps to push key messages and updates to the population. We have created new official government websites that allow our population to check where they can collect masks or the crowd levels at selected locations. These actions have complemented and supported the work of Singapore’s healthcare sector in battling COVID-19.
5. The fight against COVID-19 requires a national and integrated effort among different government agencies and the whole of society. During this period, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), which is also Singapore’s National Focal Point for AADMER, provided frontline support in COVID-19 related operations, such as temperature screening operations at Changi Airport, managing a Government Quarantine Facility, conducting swab tests in support of health authorities, stepping up fire safety checks at temporary worker dormitories, and training drivers and dormitory staff onthe proper donning of Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.
6. To maintain a high level of operational readiness, SCDF had to quickly adopt safe management measures in their operations, ensure the protection of frontliners through the provision of enhanced PPE, and adjust essential training to ensure the safety of personnel. For example, Rescue Battalions, which support the response to major urban search and rescue incidents in Singapore, had recently resumed training.Steps were taken to reassure personnel of their safety, such as implementing self-contained work zones to ensure training is safely conducted. Singapore’s regional response entities, such as the Operation Lionheart team and ASEAN-ERAT, were thus able to maintain their operational readiness to respond to disasters in the region should the need arise.
7. In spite of the travel restrictions, the ACDM has done well in maintaining open communication channels. We have also tapped on technology in a bid to move meetings, courses and training online.
8. My SCDF colleagues shared with me that during the COVID-19 period, many virtual meetings were held to develop the AADMER Work Programme 2021-2025. This work programme forms the critical backbone and roadmap for ACDM for the next five years. Guided by the AADMER Work Programme 2016-2020, the ACDM had implemented many initiatives over the last five years, such as the Disaster Emergency Logistics System of ASEAN (DELSA) and ASEAN ICT Roadmap on Disaster Management. I hope that the new AADMER Work Programme will continue to foster greater cooperation in the ASEAN region and take us one step closer towards operationalising “One ASEAN, One Response”.
Singapore’s Commitment and Contributions to Transforming Disaster Management in ASEAN and beyond
9. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of ASEAN’s capabilities in disaster management. Singapore will assume the ACDM Chair in 2021, and will also co-chair the Working Group on Preparedness, Response and Recovery and the Working Group on Global Leadership. We recognise the importance of capability development and thought leadership especially during these challenging times. Hence, Singapore will continue to organise the two flagship events in this region: the ASEAN Strategic Policy Dialogue in Disaster Management and the Senior Executive Programme in Disaster Management. Singapore conducted this year’s Senior Executive Programme in Disaster Management as a three-part webinar in October 2020. The webinar was attended by more than 500 participants from the region and beyond. The topics included disaster leadership models and sharing of experiences and challenges in managing COVID-19.
10. I am also pleased to announce that Singapore will host an AADMER Partnership Conference next year. We are cognisant of the interconnected nature of the modern operating environment, which requires close collaboration amongst partners, and will endeavour to work closely with our ASEAN colleagues, and external and community partners to scope and develop the plan of action for the AADMER Work Programme. Singapore also hopes to share our expertise in Operations-Technology with the ASEAN community. By leveraging on technology, we can further streamline work processes and possibly one day, operate seamlessly as one ASEAN in disaster management.
11. In this crisis, we saw the resolve and resilience of our region. Looking ahead, there are many opportunities for ASEAN to work together, adapt and transform to reach greater heights. With the strong collective resolve to reduce disaster risks and enhance our expertise at disaster management, and determination to advance as a region, we can make ASEAN disaster-resilient and safer for all.
12. Thank you.