A forum on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) themed ‘Navigating Business above S.E.A. level’ was held on July 25, 2014 at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia Complex.  It was spearheaded by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-National Capital Region.  Discussions were on the possibilities, limitations, challenges and opportunities of the ASEAN economic integration.

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In the forum, Glenn Peñaranda, Commercial Counsellor for Philippine Trade & Investment Centre Singapore/Malaysia/Brunei and ASEAN Team Leader shared his insights on the AEC and on the preparations on the AEC being undertaken by other ASEAN countries.  He said that the Philippines will come out ahead particularly because of its English-speaking, educated, capable and loyal workforce.  “Our human resource is our competitive advantage.”

Citing a JWT survey result on the ASEAN Consumers and the AEC: there’s a sense of excitement and optimism about the impact the AEC will have.  The Philippines stands out as the most optimistic and expects the most from the AEC.  JWT is a marketing communications agency with offices across Southeast Asia which conducted the survey of 2,400 consumers, aged 20 to 49 in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam in July 2014.  The objective was to identify the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead for brands in 2015.

Peñaranda also said that the ASEAN interest in the Philippines is strongest from Singapore and Malaysia particularly in the areas of infrastructure development and consumerism.  Malaysia is also interested in opportunities in Mindanao.

“While there is a general positive attitude towards AEC, there are concerns on the migration and greater competition.  We are watching out for non-tariff barriers of goods such as certification and licensing regimes that may be imposed on certain imports.”

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has said that the Philippines is ready for the AEC, with DTI Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. saying that the integration scheme would mean vast opportunities for intra-ASEAN investments, dynamic competition as well as complementation.  In 2014, the Department has intensified its AEC information campaign nationwide, similar to what is being done by the other ASEAN members.

Peñaranda concluded with tips for those who plan to be AEC major players: Research; Use the business resource centers and resources made available by the DTI; Adopt IT for competitiveness; Avail of the various programs for SMEs through the DTI SME Roving Academy and Go Negosyo centers; Establish institutional regional linkages in ASEAN; Give feedback (support the non-tariff measures survey to be conducted by Nielsen).