Senate hearing set on readiness-A A +A
By Mia A. Aznar
Sunday, August 18, 2013
SEN. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV wants to hold a hearing to find out if Philippine industries are ready for integration with Asean by 2015.
Aquino, who was in Cebu Friday as a speaker at the Mandaue Business Summit, told reporters before the summit that he and Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara have filed a resolution to schedule a hearing that would bring to light concerns on the country’s readiness for integration.
But rather than look at the possible threats to local business, Aquino hopes Filipinos will also see how far the country has come, citing its fast growth and macroeconomic numbers compared with other Asian countries. “They should be afraid of us,” Aquino said.
Aquino urged Filipinos to change their mindset and think about how resilient the Philippine economy has been even when the rest of the world has struggled.
He said another way to look at it is to see opportunity to provide services and products in other countries.
Asked if two years is enough to prepare the country for it, Aquino, who chairs the Senate committee on trade and commerce, said the level of preparedness differs per industry. What helps, he said, are the different industry roadmaps that have been crafted with the help of the Department of Trade and Industry.
He acknowledged, though, that many people, when asked, admit they are unprepared for integration, which is why he hopes a hearing on the matter can bring about issues and concerns that they can address. “Mahirap ma-caught off guard. While we have two years left, we better prepare for it,” he told reporters.
For Asian Development Bank (ADB) senior Philippine economist Norio Usui, warned that while there may be benefits from more liberalized trade, there could also be those who would “end up being losers.”
He said the Philippines needs to “seize the opportunity with caution” and have a clear strategy to approach integration or else end up on the losing end.
While he noted the country’s success in business process outsourcing, saying no other country in Asean can accomplish the same feats in the BPO industry, he cited the need for industrial manufacturing to take off and provide the much needed jobs for those less educated.
For Dr. Antonio del Carmen, director of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business’ master in entrepreneurship program, the Philippines should focus on what it is good at, which is in tourism and services.
Along with Asean integration will be the start of what economist call the demographic window of the Philippines, which means the majority of the population will be at a working age and outnumber the dependents.
Usui said that realistically, having just two years to prepare is not enough to make drastic changes. But he is confident that if policy reforms are institutionalized, the next administration that takes over in 2016 won’t be able to “destroy” any gains made in the Aquino administration.
He said President Benigno Aquino III has done “a fantastic job” in his first three years in laying a foundation for long-term growth.
Del Carmen, for his part, said Filipinos need to have “more faith in our people” and hopes they will continue to be politically mature in the next elections to ensure continuity.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2013.