Why Philippines should gear up for ASEAN integration

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 21 2014 02:42 PM | Updated as of Aug 21 2014 10:42 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The country's economic goals will be easier to attain if it takes advantage of the incentives and benefits of the ASEAN integration by 2016, president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) Greg Navarro said.

“If we are to achieve the development goals of the Philippines, meaning inclusive growth and more jobs for our people, we should avail of the benefits of being part of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC),” he told ANC on Thursday.

But Navarro said the business community should first be educated on what the integration entails so entrepreneurs can maximize the benefits of free trade.

According to Navarro, there are apprehensions from the country’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on how they will able to compete globally due to restrictions.

“There are concerns from the SMEs, particularly in the agricultural sector and the services sector. Those are the two sectors that are a bit afraid,” he said, noting that about 97 percent of businesses in the ASEAN region is made up of SMEs.

“We have to assist everybody, not just the big businesses to be able to avail the benefits of being in the AEC,” he added.

Navarro said SMEs are seeking a form of “safety net” from government to allow them to compete with foreign companies.

“What we’re providing them is the understanding of the blueprint of the whole AEC,” he said.

He said the financial services sector has also raised concerns because of the possibility of being “gobbled up by huge financial institutions elsewhere."

The MAP is on its second year of a three-year program aimed to spread awareness on the ASEAN integration.

The group launched MAP Exchange last year to inform the business community of issues that may result from the integration.

This year, MAP will roll out AEC Engage to tackle the rules of engagement for the AEC, namely the rules, risks, resources, regions, and rewards.

“One of the conditions of the AEC is that if I’m a Philippine company, and I’m going to open up business in Thailand, I should have equal benefits, equal opportunities as a Thai company. That will be great for everybody if we just know how to play by the rules,” said Navarro.

On September 9, MAP will hold its 12th International CEO Conference at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel to further discuss issues and challenges that may arise with the AEC.

Navarro said aside from speakers from the Philippines, the event will also be graced by representatives from the US, Africa, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, among others.

“Hopefully, we can all ride the waves of change and navigate the oceans of opportunity provided by the ASEAN economic community,” he said.