Officials from the world’s most natural disaster prone region are taking the next step to address customs and immigration bottlenecks to facilitate travel for emergency response in the Asia Pacific. The aim is to help economies meet surging demand for human resources, equipment and relief goods during an emergency, and promote better recovery infrastructure.

APEC members have identified this as a key to enhancing “person-to-person connectivity” in the region, one of their 2013 priorities for achieving resilient growth that will frame the agenda for this week’s First APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting in Jakarta.

“In the increasingly interconnected Asia-Pacific, a disaster in one economy can easily create a

spillover effect to others,” said Ambassador Yuri Thamrin, Chair of the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting. “The recent floods in Jakarta and Brisbane are tragic reminders of the urgency to improve emergency preparedness and expand cooperation within APEC.”

The Asia-Pacific comprises over 50 percent of the earth’s surface, 40 percent of the global population and experiences more than 70 percent of all natural disasters.

Ambassador Thamrin said that scientists forecast an increase in the intensity and frequency of natural disasters in the coming decades. This is providing APEC economies further incentive to pursue new ways to keep businesses up and running, and protect people’s livelihoods.

“When a natural disaster such as a flood hits, production equipment can easily become damaged or require maintenance,” said Dr. Li Wei-Sen, APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group Co-Chair. “Easing the burden on technicians to come and fix or maintain a machine is a practical way to enable business resumption.”

Exploring ways to help emergency responders travel more efficiently between APEC economies is a particular focus. “This is a long-term goal that is still a new issue for member economies who are now in the process of launching a survey to identify regulatory hurdles and potential avenues for addressing them,” Dr. Li noted.

The working group’s joint dialogue here with APEC customs and immigration officials, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Humanitarian Assistance Center and the private sector allowed for a preliminary analysis of emergency responder travel facilitation issues.

APEC economies are meanwhile pushing ahead with a multi-year project to improve the natural disaster resilience of the region’s small and medium enterprises which account for 90 percent of businesses and employ around 60 percent of workers in the region.

The project seeks to enhance risk awareness and business continuity planning within the sector to establish more reliable supply-chains and ensure trade and investment flows.

The APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group will next gather alongside the Third APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting and related meetings to take place in Medan, Indonesia from 22 June-6 July 2013.

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