The Philippines has only one to three years to take advantage of the sweet spot position that it is enjoying right now and to prepare for the full economic integration of ASEAN by 2015.
This was the assessment made by both government and economist at a forum on “The Road to 2015 ASEAN Economic Community” organized Punongbayan & Araullo yesterday in Makati City.
“The biggest challenge is we only have a year to three years to go,” said Trade and Industry Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. referring to the remaining three years to implement all the measures approved by ASEAN and maximize the benefits from the region’s full economic integration by 2015.
“We need predictable policy environment and be consistent with them,” Cristobal said even as he noted that the Philippines has a good compliance and implementation level under the Phase 1 of the AEC timetables having implemented 104 out of 110 measures.
He said the Philippines needs to catch up in terms of competitiveness in all aspects not just within but outside. He noted of areas where the country lags behind other ASEAN countries especially in investments, services, infrastructure and transportation.
While reforms on these sectors need for the government to undertake Constitutional change, he said the government position is no longer to tinker with the charter so as not to disrupt the economic momentum.
Cristobal, however, explained that while the second phase of the AEC measures are getting more challenging, the Philippines is not alone in this situation stressing that the issues are common among ASEAN countries.
Cristobal reported that the Philippines has shown slow progress under Phase 2 of the AEC timetables having acted only 103 out of the 134 measures slated for implementation for 2010-2011 schedule.
Economist Bernardo Villegas of the UA&P said, “The Philippines being in a sweet spot is short-live, if we do not take advantage of this situation other ASEAN countries are not sleeping.”
Villegas stressed that Myanmar has opened its doors to foreign direct investments and trade.
He warned that in a year or two, other countries will take that sweet position from the Philippines.
“We should work now, not tomorrow,” Villegas urged.
Cristobal said that the DTI is coming up with a unified trade strategy in order to come up with measures that would sustain the country’s economic growth with the ASEAN economic integration at the center.
The unified trade strategy would also incorporate the country’s participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation with ASEAN’s six regional trading blocs such as the EU, China, Japan, Korea, India and Australia-New Zealand.
Cristobal said the unified strategy of the Philippines has incorporated all the private sector, industry stakeholders and the non-governmental organizations by conducting massive consultations and information campaign.
Already, he said, the information drive has made the Philippines at the top rank in the utilization of the ASEAN FTA benefits with as much as 26 percent utilization rate.
For the ASEAN-Australian-New Zealand FTA, the Philippines has the highest utilization rate of 77 percent among ASEAN countries.
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