Preparation for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration in 2015 does not only mean protecting the Philippines from the threats and sidestepping the dangers. It also means seizing the opportunities of a vast market of over 600 million people in 10 countries — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The ASEAN Community envisions the breaking down, among others, of economic borders and fostering cooperation among these ten member countries. In the competition for this broad market, the better prepared gets the better share.
However, Robert Go, a director of the Philippine Retailers Association of Cebu (PRA-Cebu) and CEO of the Prince Warehouse Club, expressed concern about the lack of an information campaign. It is ironic, he admitted during a press conference of the recently-concluded Sari-Sari Store Festival 2013, that ASEAN leaders signed during the ASEAN summit in Cebu last 2007 the “Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of the Establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015.”
“In 2015, the whole ASEAN will be one market. Malaysians and Indonesians for example can come and do business just like local businessmen. This is good for businessmen who are prepared. We are more on tail end. They are better prepared than us,” said Mr. Go.
Go, in particular, recalled that the onset of the Asian Free Trade Area (AFTA) saw the closure of local companies. He cited Lucky Table Ware that used to employ 10,000 workers. When the cheap goods from China came, the company closed down. Then he asked where are the factories of Procter and Gamble, Unilever, and Johnson and Johnson, to name a few.
Equally important to preparing ourselves for stiffer competition with the expected entry of brands and products from neighboring ASEAN countries, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano pointed out the vast opportunities that comes with preparation.
Unfortunately, he said, the lesser prepared the Philippines, the lesser our ability to seize the opportunities presented by ASEAN 2015.
This is why, he said, he is filing a resolution seeking to look into the government’s level of preparation. “Exactly ganyan ang nangyari sa atin sa globalization. We did not prepare safety nets. When nag-globalize, apektado ang agriculture natin … We don’t enter an agreement if it benefits only other countries. It should be mutually beneficial.”
Here in Cebu, the economics committee of the Regional Development Council (RDC) is asking the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to conduct a caravan to inform everybody. ‘”I advocate more information coming from the DTI and government come 2015.”
More than mere information dissemination, Senator Cayetano suggested a more basic message — “patronize ang ating sariling gawa.”
Some 20 years ago, he said, Marikina had 100,000 workers. Ten years ago, there were 40,000 workers. This year, there are only 6,000. This is because for the ordinary Filipino, “kung branded, mas maganda.”
But how about building Filipino brands that could compete in the ASEAN region as well as globally. We have done it with tourism. The “More Fun in the Philippines” campaign worked and tourism is one strengths come ASEAN 2015. Can’t we not do this for the other sectors?
During a Cebu Business Month forum, Kenneth Cobonpue mesmerized a packed SM City Cinema about his successful journey of building a global brand of world class furniture products patronized by the world’s top movie stars.
Then there are the emerging startup communities with potential fast-growing online businesses. After touring 16 countries for his World Startup Report, Bowei Gai speaks highly of the vibrant startup communities in the Philippines to even decide on culminating his 29-country tour this September 26-27, 2013 during the Geeks on a Beach conference in Boracay island.
Note that unlike BPOs and other outsourced ICT projects created jobs and investments reaching P22 billion in 2012, successful homegrown startups would further generate profits for local entrepreneurs.
With 2014 fast approaching, the time has come for Filipinos to go ahead with the preparations and not wait for DTI or even P-Noy to do their jobs. Let’s all get ready for ASEAN 2015 now.
Is PH ready for ASEAN 2015? (www.rappler.com)
ASEAN Economic Community: Are we ready for 2015? (www.rappler.com)
3. One can use the videos below to spread the ASEAN Community 2015 message.