Understanding ASEAN - Part 1

Manila, Philippines – On August 14, 2014, Asia Society Philippines, in cooperation with the Asian Institute of Management ASEAN 2015 Project, hosted the pioneering session for its Understanding ASEAN series, Part 1: ASEAN Identity at the Fuller Hall, Asian Institute of Management.

A timely discussion on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the looming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015, the Understanding ASEAN series explores the opportunities and challenges presented by the regional integration through an interactive, dynamic and multi-dimensional series of dialogues.

After a brief presentation of introductory videos about ASEAN, Project Leader of AIM’s ASEAN 2015 Project Professor Federico M. Macaranas moderated a panel discussion with speaker reactors including Department of Trade Secretary, Gregory L. Domingo, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Delia Albert, former Ambassador and Permanent Representative to ASEAN Ambassador Wilfrido Villacorta, ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippine Representative Jay Y. Yuvallos, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Country Director Jules Maaten and Asian Development Bank economist James Villafuerte.

Key takeaways:

  • AMBASSADOR DELIA ALBERT traced the evolution of ASEAN from an organization founded by five “visionary” foreign ministers concerned with promoting regional stability in 1967 to the regional community of ten member nations it is today. She also posited that, in preparation for the ASEAN’s 50th Anniversary in 2017 where the Philippines will assume chairmanship of the organization, there is the need to address “a lack of knowledge and trust” in the region and stressed the importance of “knowing our neighbors”.
  • JULES MAATEN provided lessons learned from the European Union, stressing the need for a supranational perspective. He says that ASEAN will be “exciting” and a “major step for countries in ASEAN”.
  • SECRETARY DOMINGO remarked that the winners of the ASEAN integration will be those companies who prepared themselves best in being competitive. He says the Philippines has several advantages, such as its unique young demographic, healthy fiscal situation and relatively balanced inflation rates. He cited Cebu with its international conventional centers as one prime example as a city taking advantage of the benefits wrought from increased trade and internationalism. However, Secretary Domingo says there will be challenges for some sectors, such as agriculture and automotive industries.
  • AMBASSADOR VILLACORTA mentioned that, despite the region’s divisions over the South China Sea issue, he is optimistic the solidarity among ASEAN members will remain. He said ASEAN is uniquely positioned geographically between two emerging country giants, India and China.
  • JAMES VILLAFUERTE drew from a regional economic analysis of ASEAN from his work at ADB. Mr. Villafuerte painted an ASEAN with countries that are in different states of readiness. For instance, the Philippines ranked highly in GDP growth as third fastest growing economy after Indonesia and Vietnam. However, the country ranked less impressively in its ability to attract foreign investments and exporting performance in comparison to other ASEAN countries.
  • JAY YUVALLOS highlighted the lack of awareness on the ASEAN integration. He stressed the importance of sectoral groups and associations to empower small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the development of sectoral road maps.

During the Open Forum, participants asked further about the gaps and challenges of the Philippines and how Filipinos can better prepare. The ASEAN Identity dialogue closed with Prof. Macaranas synthesizing the comments from the speakers and stressing the importance of more awareness on the ASEAN integration.

The next dialgoues will be held on October and December 2014 and February 2015. The will cover the following topics: Business of ASEAN, Disaster Management and Educaiton in ASEAN. 

Understanding ASEAN is presented in cooperation with Asian Institute of Management ASEAN 2015 Project and is supported by Bo’s Coffee. Media partners are ANC, Business Mirror, Business World, Malaya Business Insight, 99.5 Play FM, Solar TV News and DZAR 1026 SMNI Radio.

For more photos and information about upcoming dialogues, visit Facebook event page: http://bit.ly/UnderstandingASEAN and hashtag #UnderstandingASEAN #ASEANidentity.


Reported by Angelica Candano and photos by Raizza Bascon.