Asean 2015

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Sunday, July 21, 2013


WAS it because of our focus on the lamppost controversy right after the Asean summit in 2007 or did we just collectively tell ourselves that 2015 is still eight years away?

I am referring to the “Cebu Declaration for the Acceleration for Establishment of an Asean Community by 2015” that 10 Asian leaders signed in Cebu way back in 2007.

While we went on to entertain ourselves with the election circuses and the accompanying controversies in 2007, 2010 and 2013, our neighbors went to work.

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Today, our business leaders are sounding off the alarm bells. Fellow Asean countries are on their way to reap the benefits of Asean 2015. Meanwhile, many in the Philippines, including journalists, are still wondering what the fuss is all about.

Robert Go, a Cebu business leader and a member of the Regional Development Council, recalled when the Asian Free Trade Area caught the Philippines flat-footed.

Lucky Tableware used to employ some 10,000 workers here in Cebu, for example. But when
cheap goods from China and other Asian countries flooded the Philippine market, the company closed, he told journalists in a press conference during the 8th Sari-Sari Store Festival the other day.

Go is the CEO of Prince Warehouse Club that gathered over 2,000 owners and operators of sari-sari stores during the whole-day festival. He is also a director of the Philippine Retailers Association Cebu chapter.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, nevertheless, stressed that preparations should not just dwell on safety nets to protect vulnerable economic sectors. We should also focus on how to benefit from the opportunities of a borderless community of 10 Asean nations.

On a macro level, an Asean community presents opportunities for companies from the economically ailing West of a vast market of over 600 million people. With Asean 2015, global corporations will have an alternative to China that is now heating up and India.

But prepared local companies can also take advantage of a bigger regional market. The key word is “prepared.”

The way I see it, Filipino-owned companies can look forward to tapping Filipino communities in Asean countries, especially in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand as our entry point. And this means promoting a “Buy Filipino Products” consciousness.

Senator Cayetano showed his Marikina-made shoes as an example. The design looked imported but it was Filipino-made. Unfortunately, he said, Marikina now employs a lot fewer workers because Filipinos prefer imported brands.

One crucial question remained in our minds after the press conference. What has the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) been doing all the while?

I just hope DTI folks are like journalists who work best when the deadline nears. If so, they should be on their toes by now. Next year–2014–is already panic time.

And I fervently hope P-Noy will call attention to this in his Sona today.

***

Is it wise for Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama to imitate former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s ploy of not allowing his people to appear before legislators?

He recently announced that City Hall finance committee members won’t appear before the City Council.

Mayor Rama should remember how GMA’s credibility plunged when she gagged her people from appearing before Senate and congressional hearings.

Mayor Rama’s move came after Councilor Noel Wenceslao delivered a privilege speech questioning the P1-billion overdraft last December, as reported by the Commission on Audit. Wenceslao aired his concern because the City still has to pay the allowances of city scholars, senior citizens and several other things.

Online, Rama defenders say the overdraft was a result of the BOPK-dominated council’s reduction of the budget. However, what if the City simply does not have enough disposable funds to cover even the reduced budget?

Unless the Rama administration can satisfactorily explain the City’s financial condition, the question will fester and soon become a stumbling block.

The way I see it, Cebuanos have had enough of a one-man rule. That’s why they again elected a BOPK-majority council to serve as the mayor’s check and balance.

***

Why don’t I like our country to be called Filipinas? I certainly will find it awkward to refer to us Filipinos as “Finoys.” And with the rising tuition at the University of the Philippines, my daughter’s friend joked that it’ll be appropriate to call the state university “U-Fee.”

(politika2013.wordpress.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 22, 2013.

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