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DTI Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr with Quezon City Mayor and National President of the League of Cities of the Philippines Herbert “Bistek” Bautista at the recent “Forum on ASEAN Economic Integration: The Role of Local Governments” organized by the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. lauded local government initiatives to provide the right atmosphere and business climate to encourage investors and the participation of small and medium enterprise in ASEAN integration. Speaking before local government executives at the recent Forum on ASEAN Economic Integration: The Role of Local Governments, Cristobal said “Local governments are at the forefront of creating opportunities for convergence of good governance and trade initiatives at the local level. This ensures that everybody participates and benefits from the developmental process.”

Spearheaded by the Department of Interior and Local government (DILG) in cooperation with the DTI, the forum gathered local government chief executives, business leaders, national government executives, regional integration experts, representatives from the academe, and governance practitioners to discuss emerging opportunities and challenges posed by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

The Forum aimed to accelerate the awareness of local chief executives on how regional economic integration will work and how this will affect local governance. This will enable local government officials to understand better the components of ASEAN integration such as human resource development requirements, trade and investment promotions, policy reforms on domestic industries to be globally competitive, and infrastructure and logistical support requirements. The Forum likewise assessed developmental gaps and policy requirements at the local and national levels as well as recommended implementation mechanisms.

”National and local government, and private sector leaders collaborate to shape and improve coherence and transparency in governance. We all need to work together to understand the pros and cons of global policy reforms and to ensure that these are aligned with our respective developmental goals and the needs of our constituents,” Cristobal added.

The DTI, as the lead agency in the country’s AEC related efforts has been conducting briefings in key cities in the country on the Philippine’s strategies to pursue overall engagement in ASEAN integration efforts. Cristobal said that ensuring Philippine competitiveness in the region and in the global economy as well as compliance with our commitments in the AEC are key strategies. He also emphasized the need to promote collaboration with relevant stakeholders at regional, national, and local levels while continuing to provide information to guide the general public, business, legislative and executive branches of government, and civil society.

ASEAN envisions a highly competitive, equitable and resilient economic region, and a single market and production base fully integrated into the global economy. ASEAN will officially declare the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community by end December 2015.

ASEAN with its population of 608 million people is one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world. It has a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about US$ 2,327 billion (2012). It is estimated that ASEAN’s total trade to the world is about US$ 2,501 billion.

ASEAN was the Philippines’ largest trading partner in 2013, accounting for 19.1% of our trade with the world. In comparison, Philippine trade with the European Union, a traditional export market, comprised only 10.7% of our total trade in the same year.

The 2-day forum was organized by the Local Government Academy of the DILG in partnership with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, League of Cities of the Philippines, League of Municipalities of the Philippines, Liga ng mga Barangay, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry and the Government of Canada through its Local Governance Support Program.