JAKARTA: Indonesia and Malaysia will start planning for a travel corridor amid COVID-19, said the foreign ministers of both countries during a joint press conference on Monday (Oct 18).
In a virtual press briefing, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi noted that from January to August this year, the trade value between both countries was US$13 billion.
This is an increase of 44 per cent compared to the same period last year when it was US$9 billion.
“To maintain this momentum and accelerate the economic recovery of the two countries, we view it as important to facilitate the safe mobility of business people.
“For this reason, we have agreed to push for a Travel Corridor Arrangement (TCA) agreement for essential business people from both countries and we will discuss this as one of the preparations for the visit of the Malaysian Prime Minister,” said Mdm Marsudi.
She added that it will complement the implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework (ATCAF) which would soon be implemented.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah is on a four-day official visit to Jakarta, his first visit to the Indonesian capital after being reappointed as foreign minister on Aug 30.
On his part, Mr Saifuddin said during the press conference that thorough planning is needed before opening the travel lane.
“I suggested that there may be several phases. Perhaps phase one, phase two, and this depends on the sectors or things that should come first. The next one is the less important one, but maybe in the second phase,” he said.
Mr Saifuddin said that for example, official visits should be prioritised. Another alternative, he suggested, is to facilitate travelling only between certain points, while opening up gradually.
Mr Saifuddin also said that both sides could consider measures such as a reciprocal green lane, travel corridor arrangement and a vaccinated travel lane. The details would follow later.
“Hopefully, despite (being) in a new normal, business opportunities and then other sectors would follow such as education, tourism and so on,” he said.
The Malaysian minister also said that both sides have agreed to work towards the mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccination certificates.
He noted that both countries have an application to track COVID-19 vaccination status, namely MySejahtera in Malaysia and PeduliLindungi in Indonesia. He said that these could be used as a basis for mutual recognition of vaccination certificates.
Mdm Marsudi added that both governments have agreed that vaccines that have been granted Emergency Use Listing (EUL) by the World Health Organization (WHO) should be treated equally and there must be no discrimination against certain types of vaccines.
“RIGHT DECISION” TO INVITE NON-POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVE FROM MYANMAR TO SUMMIT: MARSUDI
Both foreign ministers also touched on regional developments, including the situation in Myanmar.
They noted that there has been no significant development in the implementation of the ASEAN Leaders’ Five-Point Consensus which was agreed in Jakarta six months ago.
Last Friday, the foreign ministers of ASEAN agreed to only invite a non-political representative from Myanmar to a series of the group’s summits at the end of the month.
Mdm Marsudi said on Monday: “I think this decision is the right decision.”
However, she asserted that it will not stop ASEAN’s commitment to offer aid, including humanitarian aid.
“The people of Myanmar have the right and deserve peace and prosperity. The safety and wellbeing of the people of Myanmar will continue to be Indonesia's priority,” she stated.
Mr Saifuddin also expressed disappointment with the situation in Myanmar.
The ASEAN leaders had agreed on the Five-Point Consensus but the grouping’s special envoy (Brunei‘s Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof) was not allowed to carry out his duty, he said on Monday.
“On Oct 15, in addition to one or two other countries, as ASEAN, we (Malaysia and Indonesia) were quite vocal in our views, but at the same time, we still uphold the ASEAN charter and don't just look at one angle but from various angles.”
Other topics discussed during the bilateral meeting included the situation in Afghanistan, the protection of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, as well as cultural diplomacy.
Mr Saifuddin is scheduled to call on President Joko Widodo later on Monday. He will also meet with ASEAN officials as well as Malaysian students and diaspora during his trip.