Government embarks on AEC Game Plan

Government embarks on AEC Game Plan

Government is seeking inter-agency and multi-sectoral convergence on the country’s ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Game Plan in anticipation of AEC’s coming into force at the end of 2015.

DTI Secretary Gregory L. Domingo underscored the need for government and the private sector to act in concert to maximize the benefits of economic integration and pursue the ideal of inclusive growth. “Government has been taking steps to strengthen local industries, improve governance by simplifying business transactions and promote transparency in the bidding of government projects,” he pointed out, “but only you, the private sector, can take the final step to success.” He called on local manufacturers to create better products, use better technology and undertake training for the country’s workers, expressing confidence that the country “will come out ahead” in AEC.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which chairs the Committee for ASEAN Economic Community (CAEC) under the Philippine Council for Regional Cooperation, hosted an AEC Forum on April 10 at the Crowne Plaza Galleria in Pasig City attended by more than 600 participants from the private sector, government, academe, civil society and media.

The AEC aims to establish a single market and production base with free movement of goods, services and investments across the ten ASEAN member countries by December 31, 2015.

Domingo clarified the common misconception that ASEAN goods and services will overwhelm the domestic economy once AEC takes full effect on December 31, 2015. He reiterated that as of January 1, 2010, 99.6 percent of all products have already been traded at zero tariffs among the ASEAN-6 members Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand. Former NEDA Director General Cielito Habito, currently Chief of Party of the USAID Trade-Related Assistance for Development (TRADE) Project, affirmed Domingo’s clarification. Habito argued, “if AEC will indeed unleash a tsunami of ASEAN products into the Philippines, it should have already happened back in 2010.” Apart from zero tariffs already in place for all but a few traded goods, he cited the ASEAN Secretariat’s latest scorecard on the member-states’ AEC Blueprint commitments that puts the level of compliance in the range of 84 to 89 percent. “This means that we are all almost there, and AEC is not just coming in 2015 but is mostly already here.” Domingo affirmed that “nothing earthshaking will happen at the end of 2015.”

DTI Undersecretary and CAEC Chair Atty. Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. outlined the proposed AEC Game Plan consisting of the four broad strategies or the 4Cs – Compliance, Competitiveness, Communication and Collaboration. He explained the need for collaboration “to harmonize and complement the initiatives of both the government and private sector – where all players come together, converging on a coordinated plan and movement to achieve a goal or objective.”

“While government has already taken steps to enhance the country’s competitiveness through industry development roadmaps and appropriate policy reforms, it is equally important to communicate both the opportunities and challenges of the AEC to guide businesses, government agencies, and civil society.” Cristobal added that “Of 439 measures specified in the AEC Blueprint commitments, the Philippines has a compliance rate of 87 percent.”

Meanwhile, Habito highlighted elements in the AEC Game Plan for the benefit of small and medium enterprises, including DTI’s initiatives on clustering and shared service facilities (SSF), a nationwide information campaign on Doing Business in Free Trade Areas (DBFTA), industry roadmap development, and work for a Fair Competition Law in Congress, among many others.

Also featured in the forum were DTI Assistant Secretary Rafaelita M. Aldaba, who spoke on measures to strengthen competitiveness of Philippine industries including industry road mapping initiatives, and DTI VII Regional Director Asteria Caberte, who shared efforts to promote AEC readiness in Central Visayas. Other speakers were National Competitiveness Council Private Sector Co-Chairman Guillermo Luz, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Honorary Chairman Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., Management Association of the Philippines President Gregorio Navarro, and Philippine Representative to the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Jay Yuvallos. Forum participants offered suggestions to ensure that the AEC Game Plan would be responsive to the actual strengths and opportunities of the Philippines in the face of various threats and challenges. (END)