SINGAPORE: The member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed multiple initiatives to strengthen transport between states at the close of the 23rd ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting on Friday (Oct 13).
These included initiatives to liberalise air services in the region, improve the safety and efficiency of air travel and to facilitate the "seamless cross-border movement" of passengers, Singapore's Ministry of Transport said in a media release.
Transport ministers signed an agreement to make it easier for buses and coaches to go from one ASEAN country to another.
Under the ASEAN Framework Agreement for the Facilitation of Cross-Border Transport of Passengers by Road Vehicles, each member state will be allowed a quota of 500 non-scheduled buses - buses that do not run fixed schedules, for example tour buses - that will enjoy "facilitated entry" or transit through member states.
Speaking at the event, Singapore's Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said more commercial and investment opportunities will be created with more convenient travel, especially in the trade and tourism sectors.
"The tourism sector is a very important sector for all of us. It creates a lot of jobs and ensures that well paying jobs are available," he said.
Transport ministers also adopted the ASEAN Air Traffic Management Master Plan to facilitate the flow of aircraft across the region, to hopefully result in fewer delays, reduced operational costs for airlines and enhanced air traffic management.
The ministers also signed two agreements to liberalise air services in the region. The first was Protocol 3 on domestic code-share rights between points within the territory of any ASEAN member state.
It aims to enable ASEAN carriers to expand their networks without having to deploy their own aircraft, as well as to enable the greater movement of people and goods between countries.
The second agreement, the Protocol to Implement the Tenth Package of Commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services, was signed to reduce restrictions on trade in air transport ancillary services.
Ministers also signed an initiative on flight crew licensing, to make it easier for flight crew licences issued by one member state to be validated or converted to another's.
ASEAN and China transport ministers also welcomed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen aviation safety and investigation cooperation among ASEAN member states and China.
The agreement will enable the sharing of investigation facilities, equipment and expertise between all parties to support aircraft accident investigations.
The aviation agreements would directly benefit ASEAN member countries, companies and people in many ways, Mr Khaw said.
They would provide travellers with more flight options and destinations, he said, and "enable a greater movement of people and goods, benefitting our economies and businesses, and expanding tourism".
"The more connected we are, they will have more options, and the more competitive, the more competitive airfares will be," he said.
Held from Oct 12 to 13, the 23rd ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting and associated meetings with dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea take place against the backdrop of ASEAN’s 50th anniversary.