ONE more year and the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are gearing towards freer and wider market in its Economic Integration pushing for the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Such countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia; with China, Japan, and South Korea in the ASEAN Plus.
To those who are not so familiar with the ASEAN Economic Integration, let me put it in simple terms – “free-flow”. With it, people would be allowed to purchase, sell products and services, work and invest in any of the member countries of the ASEAN with lesser restrictions unlike what we are used to – strict protectionism. Instead of having to spend so much in terms of tariffs and complying with bloody requirements, strict procedures and other trade burdens, trading would be a lot easier, because the aim of the ASEAN is to have zero or near zero trade barriers. This would be enjoyed by all ASEAN member countries. In addition, Southeast Asians wanting to work overseas (in ASEAN countries) would experience easier processes. Free-flow of work-force would happen. Investors could capitalize their resources freely as they expand from one nation to another nation in the ASEAN.
Entrepreneurs would directly benefit from the ASEAN Economic Integration. There is a lot to be excited about for them.
The Philippines would be able to compete in the global setting through the one market and production base of the ASEAN. In this sense, there would be unity and more productivity among the member countries. Ironically, as member countries compete in terms of the ability to offer lower prices to consumers brought by removing or lessening trade barriers, the whole of ASEAN could benefit as a group – bonded together in creating economic progress. The free-flow would give reason for entrepreneurs to be able to cut costs for their production materials, equipment and manpower, because they would be able to get it at significantly cheaper amounts. They could have the needed edge to compete with the other larger companies in the whole world.
At a regional scale, the lending and borrowing from banks would be easier as it would have to adjust with the changes and accompany the needs for capitalization of entrepreneurs. I believe that bank transactions between and among ASEAN countries would be a lot busier compared before and it would mean significant money coming in and out of the country.
The country’s local government units (LGUs) are being improved to become business-friendly and competitive. LGUs have programs that streamline Business Permits and Licensing System (BPLS) and develop the economy through the Local Economic Development (LED) programs. In this way, the country’s budding entrepreneurs who would like to take the opportunity to do business in the ASEAN would have better access to acquire the necessary documents they need to possess in order to establish legitimate enterprises.
Free-flow could not flourish if not for state-of-the-art infrastructure as well. Entrepreneurs know the hassle of transporting precious goods from one point to another. Even though we already have some notable infrastructure, there is still so much that need to be improved. With the ASEAN Economic Integration, lagging behind would not be an option. The budget and plans in developing infrastructure would have to be applied, so that the country would be able to connect with the member nations internally and externally – roads, bridges and ports would have to be made. Entrepreneurs would be able to transport their products in the country more safely and accessibly, in all of its provinces and cities and of course out of the country to all other ASEAN countries. Consequently, entrepreneurs that focus on the tourism sector would benefit from the ease of travel. Good news for all businesses in our tourist spots.
The ASEAN Economic Integration would also mean more opportunities for the country to develop its communications and information technology facilities. In this age of high technology, entrepreneurs could benefit even more from the World Wide Web when they try to compete with the tigers and reach their customers in the global setting. We know of it as entrepreneurs have established their on-line stores which are gaining more and more attention from customers who would rather remain in the comforts of their homes and order the latest products at best deals! Entrepreneurs who are home-based and who are mostly just starting up do business on-line. Why not? Communications brought by the internet has proven to be very effective and efficient.
With free-flow, the market is even wider and tougher and we could expect even greater – tons of exportation and importation dealings happening from one corner of the world to another with the use of the internet. Imagine how else entrepreneurs could speed up the increase of their sales, but with the use of the continually developing communications and information technology! Almost everything could be just one click away from happening. In order to “go with the flow”, the free-flow would have to be accompanied with improved communications and information technology.
Investors coming in the country for expansion would provide entrepreneurs that sub-contract for more opportunities to do business. Entrepreneurs who would like to invest in another ASEAN country would be encouraged and would enjoy none, if not fewer restrictions.
The Philippines would have to adjust and better its competitiveness as it would need to keep up with the requirements of the AEC and integrate with all member countries. There would be no other sensible way, but to improve. Sink or swim they say, but I am confident, our country’s entrepreneurs would have what it takes to take advantage of the free-flow and run with the tigers.
“Rising as one: The Filipino Nation Towards The ASEAN Economic Integration” by Local Government Academy
By Dong Maraya
Recently a Filipino citizen living in Manila has laid claim—as sultan of Sulu—to the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo. Jamalul Kiram III’s claim is based on a token rent which Malaysia pays the royal house of Sulu for the use of Sabah. Calling themselves the Royal Army of Sulu, the clan members said they were descendants of the Sultanate of Sulu in the southern Philippines, which ruled parts of northern Borneo for centuries.
The February 2013 invasion by more than 200 Filipinos seemed to take both the Philippines and Malaysia by surprise. At least 60 have been killed in the ongoing conflict. The Malaysian government has been forced to take the worsening situation seriously, and launched an offensive on March 5, which included fighter jet air support.
However, the Sabah intrusion did not damage ties between Malaysia and the Philippines. Nevertheless, both sides should increase their mutual engagement in the business, economic and cultural spheres. The Philippines is maintaining close ties with Malaysia despite the siege.
“There has been no strain with our relationship in Malaysia. We recognize that this was an attempt by a few that should not affect the relationship of the whole,” a Philippine government official said in a news briefing.
Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy in Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometers (127,350 sq mi) separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Land borders are shared with Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei, and maritime borders exist with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. In 2010 the population was 28.33 million, with 22.6 million living on the Peninsula.
The independent state of Malaysia came into existence on Sept. 16, 1963, as a federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah (North Borneo), and Sarawak. In 1965, Singapore withdrew from the federation to become a separate nation. Since 1966, the 11 states of former Malaya have been known as West Malaysia, and Sabah and Sarawak as East Malaysia.
The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. The government system is closely modeled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is the king, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.
By the late 1960s, Malaysia was torn by rioting directed against Chinese and Indians, who controlled a disproportionate share of the country’s wealth. Beginning in 1968, it was the government’s goal to achieve greater economic balance through a national economic policy.
Since its independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fueled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. Today, Malaysia has a newly industrializedmarket economy, ranked third largest in Southeast Asia and 29th largest in the world.
Malaysia’s foreign policy is officially based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their political system. The government attaches a high priority to the security and stability of Southeast Asia, and seeks to further develop relations with other countries in the region.
Malaysia is a relatively open state-oriented and newly industrializedmarket economy. The state plays a significant but declining role in guiding economic activity through macroeconomic plans. In the 1970s, the predominantly mining and agricultural-based economy began a transition towards a more multi-sector economy.
International trade and manufacturing are the key sectors. Malaysia is an exporter of natural and agricultural resources, and petroleum is a major export. Malaysia has once been the largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil in the world.
In an effort to diversify the economy and make it less dependent on export goods, the government has pushed to increase tourism to Malaysia. As a result, tourism has become Malaysia’s third largest source of foreign exchange, although it is threatened by the negative effects of the growing industrial economy, with large amounts of air and water pollution along with deforestation affecting tourism. In the 1980s, Dr. Mohamad Mahathir succeeded Datuk Hussein as prime minister. Mahathir instituted economic reforms that would transform Malaysia into one of the so-called Asian Tigers.
Beginning in 1997 and continuing through the next year, Malaysia suffered from the Asian currency crisis. Instead of following the economic prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the prime minister opted for fixed exchange rates and capital controls. In late 1999, Malaysia was on the road to economic recovery, and it appeared Mahathir’s measures were working.
The Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Ibrahim Saad is from the northern state of Penang, a highly developed city also known as the Silicon City of Malaysia. Industrialized as it may be now, Penang is also a recognized UNESCO Heritage Site. Dr. Saad stressed that he has one wife with whom he has two sons and three daughters and he is currently doting on his four grandchildren. Though the family members are based in Malaysia, they make it a point to come once in a while as they love the surfing and diving in the country. In fact, he says, they just love the Philippines.
Dr. Ibrahim Saad is not a career diplomat. He started out in the academe, graduating with a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Wisconsin in America. He later on joined the government as a member of the State Assembly, became a deputy chief minister of and vice governor of Penang before he moved to a higher post in the Prime Minister’s department. Perhaps the call of the academe proved stronger then, because he left politics again and went back to the world of academe, becoming vice chancellor and president of a prestigious university in his beloved city until the government recalled him into active service and he accepted the post of Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines in 2010.
Malaysia is essentially a highly industrialized and developed country, and many tourists come to their shores to shop at high-end stores. They recently launched Luxury Malaysia in the country which extols their relatively cheap shopping because only gas, glasses, drinks, cigarettes and chocolates are taxed.
With a population of 25 million people and an economy that is steadfastly registering a double-digit growth (they have a per capita income of US$8,000) Malaysia needs a lot of manpower which the Philippines can provide. Currently, they have one million foreigners with work permits in Malaysia, and they are in the process of regularizing another one million workers.
By Dong Maraya
Australia and the Philippines have a long history of bilateral cooperation. Diplomatic relations were established when Australia opened a Consulate-General in Manila on 22 May 1946. An Australian Ambassador to the Philippines was appointed in 1957. The Philippines opened an Embassy in Canberra in 1962. Today the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines is Bill“Ranrat” Tweddell.
Mr. Bill Tweddell is Australia’s top diplomat in the Philippines. In a formal address, the titles that precede his name are EXCELLENCY, Mr. Ambassador, Consul General, and Deputy High Commissioner. But he also carries a unique tag very close to his heart: Ranrat. That’s how his two-year-old granddaughter Eva calls him. “She can’t say Granddad so she calls me Ranrat,” Bill said. Eva is Bill’s first grandchild and, practically, the first little girl that entered his life.
Bill and his wife Chris have two adult sons, Andrew and Paul, and another grandson on the way.
“But now I have a granddaughter, so finally I’ve got the little girl that I didn’t have,” Bill said.
Eva lives in Sydney. “Eva loves the water,” Bill said, acknowledging that he is never happier than when near the sea. A quintessential Australian, Bill is quite outdoorsy. He and his best friend Garth had a shared passion for rugby. But he hadn’t been the stereotype of a high-school tough jock, even in youth.
The domestic environment he grew up in while living in rural Queensland was one of mutual respect, and a very nurturing one at that. It was also filled with very strong women and unconditional family support. His mother, a kindergarten teacher by training who ended up training handicapped children and adults, was “not so quiet.” His older sister, a scientist, was also not quiet. His younger sister, an education specialist, was as opinionated. With that upbringing, it isn’t surprising that Bill ended up marrying a lady of the same mettle.
Bill and Chris met at James Cook University, from which he earned his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Economics degrees. Bill and Chris married when he was 22 and she was turning 21. What is vivid in Bill’s memory is that a cyclone was brewing as he followed Chris’s family as they were vacationing along the Sunshine Coast. Defying the wind and rain, Bill traveled partly by car and partly by train just to get to Chris.
Bill’s would-be father-in-law gave his blessings but admitted that he hoped Chris would get to travel first before settling down. Chris is a CPA who gets work when she can, even when accompanying Bill to postings in Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Greece and Bangladesh. During Bill’s posting as Deputy High Commissioner in India, she even had a chance to connect with Everest conquerors Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary on different occasions.
Australia and the Philippines cooperate closely in a broad range of areas, including defense, counter-terrorism, law enforcement and development. Australia has the following regular bilateral meetings with the Philippines: a Foreign and Trade Ministers’ meeting (the Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting, or ‘PAMM’) and associated PAMM business dialogue and senior officials’ meeting; counter-terrorism consultations; annual joint defense cooperation consultations; a joint working group on mining; an agriculture forum; a climate change dialogue; and a strategic dialogue.
The two countries share common perspectives on many regional, economic and security issues. Australia and the Philippines share a common interest in cooperating in regional affairs through forums such as the East Asia Summit (EAS), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum. Both Australia and the Philippines are active members of the Cairns Group, a coalition of 19 agricultural exporting countries. The two countries have also signaled their common interest in combating transnational challenges such as climate change.
The Philippines is the third most vulnerable country to natural disasters and the sixth most vulnerable to climate change. When earthquakes, volcanoes and severe typhoons occur, the poor are worst affected. Australia is one of the first countries to respond when typhoons affect millions of Filipino people. The Australian government is also partnering with the Philippine government in long term programs to ensure communities are better prepared for natural disasters.The countryhelps in strengthening climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in the Philippines. Through the support of their government as well, state-of-the-art multi-hazard and vulnerability maps in 14 provinces will be generated.
Australia is a wealthy country with a market economy, a relatively high GDP per capita, and a relatively low rate of poverty. In terms of average wealth, this country ranked second in the world after Switzerland in 2013. Australia has among the highest house prices and some of the highest household-debt levels in the world.
The Australian government provides aid where it knows it can make a difference. By targeting and aligning aid programs with the development goals of the Philippine Government and focusing on poverty reduction, Australian aid is making a difference in the lives of Filipinos living in poverty.
The country popularly known as ‘Down Under’ is one of the largest grant aid donors to the Philippines. The current Australia-Philippines Country Strategy (2012-2017) aligns with the key reform agenda to tackle poor governance and reduce poverty. Australia’s development assistance in the Philippines is focused on education, local government service delivery, disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, peace building and good governance.
Australia and the Philippines have growing people-to-people links through trade, investment, cultural exchange, tourism and migration. Significant numbers of Filipinos immigrated to Australia between the 1960s and the 1990s, and Filipinos remain one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Australia. At the 2006 Census, 160,000 Australians claimed Filipino ancestry, up from 129,000 in 2001.
The Australia-Philippines Development Cooperation Program Statement ofCommitment reflects the intention of the Governments to work together to address some of the key issues that keep people poor and make others vulnerable to falling into poverty. The goal of the Australia – Philippines development cooperation program is to assist the poor and vulnerable to take advantage of the opportunities that can arise from a more prosperous, stable and resilient Philippines.
Australia is providing up to $30 million to support the Philippine Government’s Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) reform agenda by investing in infrastructure development, including in- classroom construction, health services and transport. Investment in these areas is critical to fostering sustainable growth in the Philippines. Australia is supporting more than 10 national and local governments by providing government employees with a variety of short term training, together with Australia Awards Scholarships for study in Australia. By 2015, at least 600 Filipinos will have undergone postgraduate study in Australia.