The Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB), in partnership with the De La Salle University (DLSU), recently organized a forum titled “Examining the Foundations of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) for an ASEAN Curriculum” at the Multi- Purpose Hall of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall in DLSU, Manila.

“Policy reforms have been instituted to prepare us in the integration and these include the Philippine Competition Act which effectively levels the playing field by criminalizing and imposing heavy fines on business activities that promote monopolies and obstruct equal access to opportunities, the amended banking law that has opened up the banking sector eliminating foreign restriction to ownership, and the amended Cabotage Law, among others,” said DTI Assistant Secretary Anna Maria Rosario Diaz-Robeniol in her keynote address.

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) sets its environment to full economic integration, experts in the fields of international law and trade were invited to assist the academe in developing an ASEAN curriculum.

In 2003, ASEAN agreed to establish an ASEAN community comprised of three pillars – Economic Community, Political-Security Community, and Socio-Cultural Community. The three pillars are seen to be vital in attaining sustainable development among member countries.

DTI leads the Philippine efforts to achieve the objectives of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) while the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), along with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), fall under the socio-cultural pillar.

The forum, which aims to establish recommendations in the formulation of an ASEAN Curriculum, also aims to gear future professionals of the community with appropriate academic curriculum fitted to meet the goals of the AEC. It was attended by faculty members and students of DLSU’s College of Law, Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business and officers and members of the International Law Society, and the Licensing Executives Society of the Philippines (LESP).

Atty. Anthony Abad, an expert in competition law and international trade, was also in the event to discuss how the Philippines could foster a competitive environment conducive to business. He further explained the country’s inevitable integration in the AEC.

“We must all understand this, we are going to integrate whether we like it or not. This stems from the human nature of the need to improve ourselves. This can either be by innovation, creativity or by imposing ourselves together,” said Abad.

Abad mentioned some advantages that the Philippines can get in the event of the integration. “Integration highlights the problem, the gaps, what is lacking and what we have to do to catch up with our neighbor,” he said.

Atty. Edmun Sim, a partner of Appleton Luff in Singapore, provided the historical and institutional, and legal context of the AEC, which can also be found in his book, “The Foundation of the ASEAN Economic Community: An Institutional and Legal Profile (Integration through Law: The Role of Law and the Rule of Law in ASEAN Integration).”

Sim’s book explains the AEC background in comparison with the European Union (EU) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The book also outlines the shortcomings of the current system to understand both the institutional and foundational deficiencies of the ASEAN as well as its potential in regional economic development.

Founded on August 1987, the ASEAN is composed of ten (10) member states including the Philippines. ASEAN, if it were a single country, would be the 7th largest economy in the world. It is the 4th largest exporting region, behind European Union and the United States. Through ASEAN membership, the country now enjoys the opportunity of establishing ties with the global community through its economic partners namely China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Russia, United States and the European Union.

EMB DLSUDTI Assistant Secretary Anna Maria Rosario Diaz-Robeniol delivers her key note address on the forum on AEC at the De La Salle University – Manila