The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was founded on August 8, 1967 by the determinations of five countries—Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines. The following decades saw more countries—Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Brunei Darussalam—entering the consortium. At present, ASEAN boasts of ten united member states striving to safeguard peace and stability by facilitating economic progress, political security, and socio-cultural development in the region. It has been widely acknowledged as an effective example of successful regionalism.

The imagining of an ASEAN Community began in 1997 when ASEAN heads of state envisioned the association to become a “concert of Southeast Asian nations, outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies1)Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (1997, December 15).  ASEAN Vision 2020. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.asean.org/news/item/asean-vision-2020.” The building process itself did not formally concretize until 2003 when the Bali Concord II was adopted and the organization intended an ASEAN Community by 2020. In 2007, the Cebu Declaration on the Acceleration of an ASEAN Community by 2015 was signed to expedite the establishment by 2015.

The ASEAN Community plan is based on three pillars: Political-Security Community, Economic Community and Socio-cultural Community. Each of these pillars has its own blueprint that, along with IAI Work Plan II, contributes to the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community (2009-2015).

The subsequent paragraphs elaborate on the undertakings and of the Philippine government in preparation for the ASEAN integration. This will be divided into three parts which correspond to the three pillars of the ASEAN Community plan.

In relation to ASEAN Political-Security Community2)Baviera, A. S.P., B. (2013, May 12). The Philippines and the ASEAN Political-Security Community. Lecture presented in Asian Center, University of the Philippines, Quezon City.

The member states of ASEAN have assured a more close collaboration in resolving security matters. With the establishment of the ASEAN Charter, the past non-interference tenet in internal affairs exemplifies a departure and an aspiration for the betterment of the region. This can be seen in the role that Indonesia and Malaysia had in the peace process involving rebel groups in the southern island of Mindanao.

(Bacongco, 2008) . Malaysia and Indonesia assisted in peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

(Bacongco, 2008)3)Bacongco, Keith. (Photographer). (2008). Into the Marsh [Online image]. Retrieved October 28, 2015 from https://flic.kr/p/57Yg9C . Malaysia and Indonesia assisted in peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The ASEAN Political-Security Community is a work in progress. There are worries and intricacies in reaching its goals. However, this project is vital to the region for it promotes the compliance of the region according to the rule of law and the vigor to adopt a more democratic approach in settling and mitigating political and security challenges.

In relation to ASEAN Economic Community4)This part of the article is heavily based on news reports and summary reports.  Tribune Wires. (2014, May 26). Philippines well-prepared for Asean integration. The Daily Tribune. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.tribune.net.ph/business/philippines-well-prepared-for-asean-integration; Llanto, G. (2014, May 27). Status of Philippine Commitments to AEC 2015 and Recommendations. Lecture presented in House of Representatives Committee on Economic Affairs, Quezon City.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is central to the realization of the group’s aspiration to become a single economic bloc that will transform the region into a dynamic and competitive market. This is a key aspect in permitting freer and smoother interchange of capital, services, investments, merchandises, and skilled labor. As one of the most open economic zones in the world and with an estimated populace of more than 600 million, “ASEAN’s potential market is larger than the European Union or North America5)Stephen, G. (2014, June 23). ASEAN Integration and the Private Sector. Lecture presented at German-Business Association AEC: Integration, Connectivity and Financing: What Does Regional Integration in Southeast Asia Mean for the German Business Community?, Berlin, Germany.

The government believes that the Philippines is equipped for the Southeast Asian economic integration. The administration is also actively promoting the country as an investment destination and easing the admittance of foreign direct investments. The government cited the increased global competitiveness of the Philippines, as seen in the upgraded standing of the country in terms of credit rating, in the active flow of investments entering the country. Last year, the Philippines has substantially improved its rankings in investment grade rating from all of the three major credit rating agencies namely Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s, and Moody’s Investor Service. In explaining their conclusion to raise the credit rating, the credit overseers allude to the country’s more vigorous economic activity and promising macroeconomic policies. This is further evidenced by the consistent forward thrust of the country in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness survey. In the survey, the Philippines is currently in the 56th, the third among ASEAN member states6)World Economic Forum. (2014). Global Competitiveness Index.Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://reports.weforum.org/global-competitiveness-report-2015-2016/competitiveness-rankings/.

(Crypt, 2007) . For the integration of Southeast Asian economies, Philippines has eliminated tariffs for products from neighboring ASEAN member states.

(Crypt, 2007)7)Storm Crypt. (Photographer). (2007). Seaside Manila [Online image]. Retrieved October 28, 2015 from https://flic.kr/p/NfHrn. For the integration of Southeast Asian economies, Philippines has eliminated tariffs for products from neighboring ASEAN member states.

Since 2010, Philippines has been more consenting to international trade as evidenced by the virtually nonexistent tariff rates on commodities from other ASEAN member states. Under Executive Order 850, signed by the then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2009, all import duties on most goods from ASEAN countries have been eliminated. This liberalization has greatly aided in the promotion of industry competition domestically, regionally, and globally. In terms of authorizing nonrestrictive flow of goods, Philippines is advanced.

In skilled labor, Republic Act 8981 signals the opening up of domestic professions to foreigners. It approves the entry of foreign people pursuant to foreign reciprocity provisions. This policy acknowledges the “important role of professionals in nation-building and, towards this end, promotes the sustained development of a reservoir of professionals… whose standards…are internationally recognized and considered world-class…8)PRC Modernization Act of 2000  s. 2  (Philippines)” Moreover, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) continuously simplifies the formerly rigid measures in the issuance of alien employment permits (AEPs). Each year, around 12,000 AEPs are released. For occupations that are still unfilled, DOLE is tasked to give priority for applicants from ASEAN member states. The stream of skilled labor is made stronger with these policies.

In relation to ASEAN Socio-cultural Community

It is imperative for a more integrated ASEAN community to realize the potential of education. The development of human resources is conditional on the proliferation of knowledge, vigor of student mobility, and supervision of degree compatibility.

Two years ago, President Benigno Aquino, Jr. has authorized the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (K to 12). This is seen as momentous educational achievement because this indicates the disposition of the government to align the country with the standards of international education. The Philippines was the last in Asia and one of only three—the other two being Angola and Djibouti—in the world with a 10-year pre-university primary instruction. The implementation of 13 years of basic education will provide students with a more solid basic foundation that will allow them to compete in a more regional and global sense.

With regards to higher education institutions (HEIs), there is an observable increase in the number of public and private HEIs. At publicly financed HEIs, the volume of students increased as evidence by the higher size of enrolments.

Moreover, the Philippines has transformed itself as a destination for learners of English as a second language. Philippines is the top in Asia in terms of the usage of the English language. Thousands of students from all over the world flock to the Philippines because of its low rates and reasonable cost of living. This edge in speaking ASEAN’s lingua franca puts Philippines in an advantage in terms of education since the language of instruction in all HEIs is English.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is the leading agency that actively strategizes the internationalization of higher education programs in the country to guarantee that the quality is of international criteria—as detailed in CHED’s Strategic Plan 2011-2016. CHED has also added more HEIs in the ASEAN University Network (AUN) to maintain networking among HEIs from other ASEAN states9)Macabangun-Milla, L. (2014, January 30). ASEAN Community Building: CHED’S Actions and Activities. Lecture presented at Conference on Human Resource Management: Laws and Issues in Preparation for ASEAN 2015 and K-12 in University of Cebu, Cebu City. . It has also overseen more student and staff collaboration in the region by facilitating numerous camps and conferences. Furthermore, CHED has continued to send more students abroad by participating in ASEAN International Mobility for Students (AIMS) Program. With the shifting of the academic calendar for some universities, it is anticipated to foster student and faculty mobility between these universities and their regional equivalents.

Due to the internationalization of education, the University of the Philippines is one of the few universities that overhauled its academic calendar to ease the movement of students and faculty

Due to the internationalization of education, the University of the Philippines is one of the few universities that overhauled its academic calendar to ease the movement of students and faculty

The future:

Whether ASEAN will be triumphant in its plan for community building this year still hangs in the balance. However, the world does not deny the potential of a fully integrated regional alliance. The case of ASEAN is distinct and inspiring altogether. Despite the social, economic, and political differences among the member states, the bloc has managed to foster an environment where these differences are dissolved and has stemmed to a diplomatic and beneficial relationship.

 

By Lea Salen Peralta, ASEAN Correspondent from Philippines

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References   [ + ]

1. Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (1997, December 15).  ASEAN Vision 2020. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.asean.org/news/item/asean-vision-2020
2. Baviera, A. S.P., B. (2013, May 12). The Philippines and the ASEAN Political-Security Community. Lecture presented in Asian Center, University of the Philippines, Quezon City.
3. Bacongco, Keith. (Photographer). (2008). Into the Marsh [Online image]. Retrieved October 28, 2015 from https://flic.kr/p/57Yg9C
4. This part of the article is heavily based on news reports and summary reports.  Tribune Wires. (2014, May 26). Philippines well-prepared for Asean integration. The Daily Tribune. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.tribune.net.ph/business/philippines-well-prepared-for-asean-integration; Llanto, G. (2014, May 27). Status of Philippine Commitments to AEC 2015 and Recommendations. Lecture presented in House of Representatives Committee on Economic Affairs, Quezon City.
5. Stephen, G. (2014, June 23). ASEAN Integration and the Private Sector. Lecture presented at German-Business Association AEC: Integration, Connectivity and Financing: What Does Regional Integration in Southeast Asia Mean for the German Business Community?, Berlin, Germany.
6. World Economic Forum. (2014). Global Competitiveness Index.Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://reports.weforum.org/global-competitiveness-report-2015-2016/competitiveness-rankings/
7. Storm Crypt. (Photographer). (2007). Seaside Manila [Online image]. Retrieved October 28, 2015 from https://flic.kr/p/NfHrn
8. PRC Modernization Act of 2000  s. 2  (Philippines)
9. Macabangun-Milla, L. (2014, January 30). ASEAN Community Building: CHED’S Actions and Activities. Lecture presented at Conference on Human Resource Management: Laws and Issues in Preparation for ASEAN 2015 and K-12 in University of Cebu, Cebu City.