ARE WE ASEAN-READY? (Part 1 of 3)

It was in January 2012 when I learnt about the One ASEAN Economic integration due to be launched in Malaysia by the end of this year.

I was visiting Thai Christian School in Bangkok with my 4th year LifeCollege students for the school’ annual global competence/citizenship curriculum in 5 ASEAN countries when I was oriented about the details of the integration.

Drifting inside my mind was a two-faced coin: the other side promises a truckload of opportunities for our people, while the other side are a nexus of challenges. Hence, we’ve got the question: Are we ASEAN-ready?
Historically speaking, the ASEAN as an organisation is not new at all. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and The Philippines originally founded this economic and political organisation way back August 8, 1967. In fact, we take pride in the fact that one of its brainchilds is no less than the visionary president, Ferdinand Marcos.

The organisation now includes Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Although it is too early to say whether the ASEAN will end up like the European Union with a single currency, the agenda of the founding nations is to facilitate regional peace and economic stability in the region.

Out of the fear that communism might override democracy during the 60’s and with the aim to propel faster economic growth, the ASEAN came into being. The ASEAN declaration (aka Bangkok Declaration), says that its basic principles of ASEAN included co-operation, amity, and non-interference.

The ASEAN promise boasts of a market with a total land area of about 4.4 square kilometres, with a combined population of 600 million people (almost 9 percent of the world’s population), and a GDP of nearly US$1.8 trillion annually. If each member country will ranked low according to economic growth, except for Singapore, as a combined unit, the ASEAN is the 7th largest economy.

The blueprint for the integration is already in place. Integration will happen mostly through a single market and production base that boasts of the free flow of goods, services, investments, capital,professional/skilled labour, food, agriculture and forestry. This is the critical area where we need to educate our people. Faced with a yes-or-yes, perish-if-you-don’t kind of thing, the call now is “be prepared.”

In our city and province, the integration may not be the only reason why there are a lot of airport, seaports, and farm-to-market road constructions, but it is safe to assume that our leaders are keen of the development opportunities that the ONE ASEAN Economic Integration promises.

Strategically speaking, we must all be aware that Palawan is ‘THE’ gateway to Southeast Asia. We are literally blocking the rest of the country! Once the province and the city come up with a unified strategic plan or blueprint to embrace the market opportunities and prepare our people with skills, we will all go a long way in terms of economic and social development.

But then again, the key word here is strategy. Next week, we will detail the opportunities in the single market and production base.

(Note: Language/spelling is in British English, which is widely used in ASEAN documents.)
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