TRADE Secretary Ramon M. Lopez expressed opposition to non-tariff measures across the region that could hinder the movement of essential goods as ASEAN members respond to the pandemic.

Mr. Lopez represented the Philippines at a video conference with ASEAN member states and partners China, Japan, and South Korea, the trade department said in a statement Sunday.

“In this critical time, we should refrain from imposing unnecessary non-tariff measures, such as export prohibitions and restrictions, to ensure adequate supplies of essential goods necessary to fight the pandemic,” he said.

At least 80 countries have placed temporary export restrictions on medical supplies including face masks, ventilators, and pharmaceuticals, the World Trade Organization reported in April. Some countries also placed restrictions on food items and toilet paper.

Mr. Lopez also supported the move to create an ASEAN emergency reserve for critical medicines and supplies.

Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean counterparts in April agreed on a public health response fund, and are considering a medical supply reserve.

Tariff Commissioner Marissa Maricosa A. Paderon at a recent webinar also sought a review of outdated non-tariff measures.

Mr. Lopez said the pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of supply chains.

“We see that by continuing to work together, we can consolidate our individual efforts, that of relevant

sectoral bodies, and our other partners into a coordinated strategy that will ensure the smooth flow of essential goods and services in combating COVID-19 in the region, as well as minimize disruptions in our supply chains,” he said.

Face masks produced in the Philippines are currently sold in both domestic and export markets. — Jenina P. Ibañez