EDITORIAL - ASEAN Community
(The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2015 - 9:00am

Ready or not, the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations formally launched yesterday the ASEAN Community, putting the grouping along an inexorable path toward full economic integration by 2025.

The launching of the ASEAN Community opens borders to the free flow of goods, funds and financial instruments, services and labor, among other things. While numerous issues must still be ironed out such as common standards in goods and skill levels, there is no backing out of commitments to a regional open market.

Economic integration creates a highly competitive environment where only the fittest will survive and thrive. Several ASEAN states have been preparing different sectors for the competitive challenges ahead. These countries have a high awareness of what the ASEAN Community is and how it may affect their lives. That awareness is lacking in many sectors in the Philippines.

In unity there is strength. Integration opens vast opportunities in a market of 622 million people, giving the grouping greater clout in trade negotiations. ASEAN states will also have better access to raw materials, finished products, funds and skills within the region. More Filipino businessmen can go multinational and invest around the integrated community. Even micro, small and medium enterprises can benefit from the open environment, allowing them to expand, create jobs and ease poverty. But MSMEs will need sufficient guidance and support from the government to break into foreign markets.

Open borders, however, can kill certain products and livelihoods that are unable to compete in a global environment. Manufacturers and professionals will have to cope with foreign competitors. Farmers may find their crops competing with a flood of cheaper imports.

The challenge this year, for both the Aquino administration and the new one that will come in by mid-year, is to ensure that the country is ready for economic integration. Product quality standards must be strictly enforced. The quality of Philippine education and skills levels must be constantly upgraded. Free markets reward innovation, efficiency and quality. The ASEAN Community must serve as an opportunity rather than a setback for sustained economic growth. With proper preparation, the ASEAN Community should spell a booming 2016 for the Philippines.

A joyful, prosperous New Year to all!

AQUINO ASEAN ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS COMMUNITY ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT INTEGRATION MORE FILIPINO NEW YEAR OPEN QUALITY
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