Asean integration to benefit PH

Ayala chief cites skilled labor, strong economy


Ayala Corp. chair Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala

SINGAPORE—Ayala Corp. chair Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said the Philippines should play an active role in pursuing the integration of Southeast Asian economies, believing the country stood to benefit on a net basis from the plan.

Contrary to fears that the Philippines could lose out in a regime of tighter market competition in the region, Zobel opined that the country actually had comparative advantages that should make integration beneficial to Filipino businesses.

“It is in our best interest to do what we can [to pursue] the integration initiative,” Zobel told the Inquirer yesterday at the sidelines of a conference held here and organized by the Network Asean Forum (NAF).

He said that with a competent labor force and favorable macroeconomic fundamentals, the country could entice more investments when these could freely flow across countries in the region.

Zobel cited the services sector, which enjoys continually growing foreign investments because of the skills of the country’s labor force and appropriate information and communication technology infrastructure.

“We are now the fastest-growing economy in the region. And unlike some of our neighbors that suffer from current account deficits, we enjoy a current account surplus,” he pointed out.

The positive macroeconomic fundamentals, he said, were an indication of the country’s resilience to global shocks and that should make the country a winner when the Asean economies have been integrated.

His view contrasted those of critics who feared that the Philippines was not yet prepared for integration because this could encourage local businesses to invest elsewhere. In particular, countries believed to have better infrastructure and regulatory environment could entice Filipino businesses away from the Philippines.

Moreover, with stiff competition, small businesses in the country are feared to lose out against foreign giants.

Economists noted that in order for the Philippines to compete head on with its neighbors, it should invest more heavily in infrastructure, rationalize regulations for some sectors and ease the processes for setting up businesses.

NAF, of which Zobel is a co-founder, is a private sector-led organization pursuing the realization of the proposed integration of member economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Representatives from the business sector of Southeast Asian economies discussed bottlenecks to the integration during the conference held yesterday. NAF is expected to submit policy recommendations gathered from the participants to concerned governments on how the problems confronting Asean integration should be addressed.

Under the original plan of the Asean, member economies are supposed to be fully integrated by 2015. This means there should be completely free movement of capital, goods and labor across the region.

Both private and government observers, however, have acknowledged that a fully integrated Asean economy might not be possible by 2015 because of a host of bottlenecks, including tight regulations on certain areas.

NAF believed that full integration should be pursued, although a new timeline should be looked at given that 2015 was just less than two years away. NAF acknowledged that progress toward integration has been slower than earlier planned.

NAF said an integration would help boost investments, job creation and, in the process, incomes. Integration is also expected to make Asean a more powerful region in the global economy.

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  • Rovingmoron

    It doesn’t cost a penny to dream big dreams for the country. But the way things are going in the ASEAN region, it seems some members of the grouping are adamant to allow a room for a full economic collaboration with the Philippines. These countries could be Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. The only benefits that we derive from these neighbors are the exports of our human services. But economic assistance like what Japan does, nada!

  • joboni96

    laki ng ngisi
    ng kastilaloy na iri

    yayaman na naman
    using kayamanan ng pilipino sa bangkong bpi niya

    reject this surrender of pilipino sovereignty
    by non-elected government bureaucrats

    pilipino economy for pilipinos
    massive production, massive competitive exports

    no to foreign capital

    overseas pilipinos remit enough money
    for our own development

  • Ninio Calle

    I agree with the Ayala Corp. chair but on a different perspective. The local PH capitalists are afraid of the competition because they have been pampered by the government through the 60/40 economic provision of the Constitution since 1935 up to the present Constitution. They invest only enough to sustain their wealth but do not invest more. In plain language, why invest more when there are more than enough earning on the few profitable venture. I just don’t know if the integration of the economies of ASEAN will also render that 60/40 provision moot. The government might be force to amend the Constitution as a result. If that happens, well and good. As it is, this provision is favoring the 5% to 10% who are rich as against us the 90% to 95% who are poor, unemployed and underemployed. If this happens, then PH industrialization will be given a boost. We have the mineral wealth and endowed labor force. The only missing ingredient is the capitalist willing to invest in PH instead of hiring OFW to man their factories in their countries.

  • Filpino

    we pinoys are different with our Asean neighbors. We are a unique race, that is, we have a hard time identifying ourselves as Asian. We are not a caucasian race though, but we understand more the thinking of the west than the east. 300 years of spanish and 50 years of american colonialism were deeply imbued in our system. Religion will be a great factor to consider as well as the fact that most of our neighbors have a king as figure-heads in uniting their people. Better for us not to join this group but just continue our mutual respect and cooperation with regards to business and stability in our region.

  • KappaPhiPhi

    it is good to hear that pinas under noynoy’s leadership has gained so much acccolades; best stock excahnge, no 1 in gdp growth, credit ratings and so on. yet the investors do not flock here as boasted otherwise( at 40% ownership, no way. 51 % siguro puede pa), we do not produce jobs, poverty has remained almost the same in the kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap mantra. some may argue, noynoy cannot undo the nine years of gma’s corrupt regime. but then this is what he boasted when he was a candidate and in his first sona. yet, smuggling has gone up ten times beating the combined 11 year smuggling figure of erap and gma in just 2 years.
    in 2 years, will the integration make kim and ruffy’s job easier?

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