FOLLOWING the official launching of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the Department of Trade and Industry in Central Visayas maintains that local businesses in the region are prepared for the Philippines to be part of the trading bloc.
“We are ready. We’ve been ready. All we have to do now is to embrace this,” said DTI 7 Director Asteria Caberte.
The awaited AEC was officially launched last Dec. 31, signalling the start of a region with free trade of goods, services and human resource involving 10-member countries, which includes the Philippines.
In the run up to Dec. 31, DTI 7 has been conducting seminars and fora for different sectors to discuss the opportunities and challenges brought on by the AEC.
On a more basic level, Caberte explained that Cebuanos would see more imported items in the malls and in the supermarkets displayed side by side with the locally-produced ones.
Changes in the retail scene, the director said, is the most obvious result of the integration. Over the next months, consumers are expected to observe more imported items on the supermarket shelves, and the same applies to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, who will see more Philippine products in their stores.
For economist Perry Fajardo, local businesses have no other choice but to keep up and even strive to become better than their ASEAN counterparts.
Instead of fearing competition arising from the economic integration, Fajardo advised them to welcome it by improving the quality of their products and the efficiency of their processes.
He noted those businesses that have been accustomed to serving only the domestic market would find it harder to compete against those that have already tried dealing with global clients and customers.
“You don’t have to be big to conquer the world,” Fajardo reminded local SMEs. He said there are many cases of small enterprises that have been successful in serving foreign markets, like those in Europe and other developed nations despite their size.
In the local scene this year, the DTI director expects a better economy than last year, prompted by international events like the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) and the Sinulog Festival preceding it. She sees tourist arrivals even better in 2016 than in 2015 and consumer spending to grow with the continuous growth experienced by the BPO sector.