Inclusive development in Asean

2015 is a big year for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) with the mandate and deadline for integration looming. But even as we have been aware that this has been coming for a while, there are still questions that must be asked.  For the Philippines, and for some of our neighbors as well, are we prepared to compete with our fellow ASEAN countries in supplying goods and services to a single and fast growing market of around 600 million people? More importantly, will this forthcoming ASEAN economic integration benefit the poor in our country? Will the AEC result in more prosperous and just countries and region or will it exacerbate long-standing problems of inequity and unsustainability?

Fortuitously, the Ateneo de Manila University’s Professional Schools (APS), led by our Vice-President Antonette Palma Angeles, and consisting of the four graduate schools of the Ateneo: the Ateneo Graduate School of Business (AGSB), the Ateneo Law School (ALS), the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG), and the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH), celebrates its 40th this year. And, as part of its yearlong anniversary celebration, our schools organized this Wednesday, November 12, a Lecture Forum Ensuring Growth that Matters: ASEAN Integration and Inclusive Growth.

The Ateneo Professional Schools is a globally competitive center of excellence in graduate education, Jesuit and Ignatian in spirit, multi-disciplinary in orientation. It is at the forefront of efforts to build a better nation through solutions-oriented and policy-relevant research, institutional outreach to society and the professions, and the formation of technically excellent and values-driven professionals. Because of this, we chose to address this important topic of ASEAN integration and inclusive development.

The Lecture Forum, held in the Rockwell Campus of the university and attended by nearly 400 business and government leaders, as well as academics and practitioners, focused on the opportunities and challenges presented by the 2015 ASEAN economic integration, emphasizing the measures we need to take to ensure that the anticipated economic growth will benefit the least privileged among us.

After welcome and opening remarks by our president, Fr. Jose T. Villarin, and Dr. Palma Angeles, the morning Plenary Session provided an overview of ASEAN economic integration - its aspirations, pillars, progress, and prospects post 2015. The overview covered ASEAN’s guiding principles for inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as the ASEAN initiatives that support these principles. The keynote speaker was no other than Ambassador Rodolfo Severino, the head of the ASEAN Studies Centre at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. Ambassador Severino, whom I have known for many years and worked with during the Ramos administration, was former ASEAN Secretary and Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines. A big thinker, during the Lecture Forum, he posed very important questions to the audience about the consequences of integration and how it could play out regionally and nationally.

To ensure a regional perspective, Mr. Arjun Goswami of the Asian Development Bank; Vo Tri Thanh, President
 of the Central Institute for Economic Management Vietnam; . Leeber Leebouapao, the General
of National Economic Research Institute Lao People’s Democratic Republic; and . Alvin Ang, economics professor at the Ateneo de Manila University spoke in the Plenary Session.

In the afternoon, three parallel sessions were conducted, all equally interesting and thought provoking. These sessions were on: (1) The Philippine Manufacturing Sector and Regional Production Network; (2) Education and Human Capital Development in the Philippines: Bridging the Developmental Divide, and (3) Social Development Policies and Programs in Southeast Asia: Towards a Truly Participative and Inclusive Development in ASEAN.

The first session was moderated by Atty. Anthony A. Abad, in International Economic Law Ateneo Law School, and featured such high-level speakers as . Paolo Benigno A. Aquino, IV, of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship, and Industry Assistant Secretary Rafaelita M. Aldaba, and . Guillermo M. Luz, Private Sector Co-Chairman of the National Competitiveness Council. AGSB Dean Rudy Ang provided the synthesis of the sessionthat highlighted the ing sector as an important source of inclusive growth because of its potential to generate more high-wage and high-productivity jobs, compared to the services sector.

The second parallel session on education and human resources had as panelists well-known leaders in the field, including Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, Labor Secretary Dimapilis-Baldoz, 
Philippine Overseas and Employment Administration AdministratorLeo J. Cacdac, Lawrence Jeff Johnson, the Director of
International Labor Organization. My colleagues Deans Manuel M. Dayrit (ASMPH) and Atty. Sedfrey Candelaria (ALS) respectively moderated and synthesized the discussion the impact of ASEAN integration on labor markets and the challenges that this implies for education and human development.

Finally, I moderated the third parallel session, which was organized by the Ateneo School of Government through the Universities and Councils Network on Innovation for Inclusive Development in Southeast Asia (UNIID- SEA) Project, in partnership with the Association of Schools of Public Administration in the Philippines, Inc. (ASPAP, Inc.). UNIID-SEA is a regional initiative currently led by the Ateneo School of Government and the National Research Council of the Philippines and supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC-CRDI).

Our panel presented inclusive development policies and programs that have been instituted or adopted in five ASEAN countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, with the discussion anchored on the results of the 5-country policy mapping that was conducted by ASPAP as commissioned by UNIID-SEA. Speakers included: Prof. Eleazar E. Ricote, the, Association of Schools of Public Administration in the Philippines;. Bala Raju Nikku, , School of Social Sciences Universiti Sains Malaysia, who joined via Skype; . Purwo Santoso, , Department of Politics and Government Gadjah Mada University
Indonesia; and, Nipawan Thirawat, Master of Business Administration Division Mahidol University International College
Thailand. Dr. Mary Jean Caleda summarized the discussion on the role of administration and governance, with public policy at the core, in shaping, directing, and accelerating state action and mobilization of resources for key development initiatives in each country.

Are we ready for ASEAN integration? I cannot claim that we have been able to answer this question fully and comprehensively last Wednesday, but definitely the Lecture Forum organized by the Ateneo Professional Schools enlightened minds and brought some clarity to the issues and challenges that lie ahead.


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