ASEAN nations join hands to fight emerging cybercrime due to pandemic

November 27, 2020

Recognizing the need for stronger collaboration against transnational crimes in this time of the pandemic, the ministers and high-level representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have vowed to work for a cohesive response to new and emerging crime trends vis-a-vis improved cyberspace capability.

DILG Secretary and AMMTC-Philippines head Eduardo M. Año said that law enforcement units in the ASEAN region must improve its capabilities against cybercrimes because of the alarming increase of pandemic induced cyber threats, including 59% increase in phishing/scam/fraud, 36% malware/ransomware, 22% malicious domains, and 14% increase in fake news.

In a joint statement adopted during the 14th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) held on Thursday, November 25, the Ministers/High-Level Representatives from the ASEAN member countries expressed their strong commitment and dedication in the fight against transnational crime amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We join hands in solidarity, and to maintain close coordination to overcome these difficulties and pledge to do our utmost to contribute toward the expeditious return to normalcy in the post-COVID-19 world,” reads the said joint statement.

Año who represented the country in the meeting, stressed the importance to revamp regional programs, strategies, mechanisms, and capacity-building initiatives to facilitate regional cooperation on the global pandemic.

“The ASEAN community must continue to unite its actions in addressing new forms of transnational crimes and the COVID-19 pandemic. In this unprecedented situation, let us remain committed to weathering all storms, and together, we will heal as one,” he said.

Año also stressed the need to empower the youth and other vulnerable sectors and continue the exchange of intelligence and best practices.

Considering the limited personal interactions during this global health crisis, Año encouraged the ASEAN ministers to explore innovative ways to conduct trainings and programs.

Meanwhile, DILG Undersecretary and Chair of the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime Bernardo C. Florece Jr. said he is pleased that the ASEAN ministers are still able to adapt to the new normal through digital platforms despite the challenges this year.

Florece reported the ASEAN declaration on illicit trafficking of wildlife and timber on top of their existing areas of regional cooperation on terrorism, trafficking in persons, cybercrime, arms smuggling, money laundering, international economic crime, sea piracy, and sea robbery.

“Even amidst the pandemic, the SOMTC works were continued, albeit via online sessions with various ASEAN and non-ASEAN partners through dialogues, workshops, trainings, webinars, and successful operations on some areas of transnational crimes,” Florece said.

Hosted by the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, the 14th AMMTC meeting was attended by ASEAN Ministers/High-Level Representatives from Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.