The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 is a major milestone in the regional economic integration agenda in ASEAN, offering opportunities in the form of a huge market of US$2.6 trillion and over 622 million people. In 2014, AEC was collectively the third largest economy in Asia and the seventh largest in the world.
The AEC Blueprint 2025, adopted by the ASEAN Leaders at the 27th ASEAN Summit on 22 November 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, provides broad directions through strategic measures for the AEC from 2016 to 2025. Along with the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, and the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Blueprint 2025 and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2025, the AEC Blueprint 2025 forms part of ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together. It succeeded the AEC Blueprint (2008-2015), which was adopted in 2007.
The AEC Blueprint 2025 is aimed towards achieving the vision of having an AEC by 2025 that is highly integrated and cohesive; competitive, innovative and dynamic; with enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation; and a more resilient, inclusive, and people-oriented, people-centred community, integrated with the global economy
The AEC Blueprint 2025 consists of five interrelated and mutually reinforcing characteristics, namely: (i) A Highly Integrated and Cohesive Economy; (ii) A Competitive, Innovative, and Dynamic ASEAN; (iii) Enhanced Connectivity and Sectoral Cooperation; (iv) A Resilient, Inclusive, People-Oriented, and People-Centred ASEAN; and (v) A Global ASEAN. These characteristics support the vision for the AEC as envisaged in the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
The AEC Blueprint 2025 sets out the strategic measures under each of the five characteristics of AEC 2025. To operationalise the Blueprint’s implementation, these strategic measures will be further elaborated in and implemented through the work plans of various sectoral bodies in ASEAN. The sectoral work plans will be reviewed and updated periodically to ensure their relevance and effectiveness. Partnership arrangements with the private sector, industry associations and the wider community at the regional and national levels will also be actively sought and fostered to ensure an inclusive and participatory approach to the integration process. Institutions will be strengthened and enhanced approaches to monitoring and public outreach will likewise be developed to support the effective implementation of the Blueprint.
The AEC 2025 Consolidated Strategic Action Plan (CSAP) comprises of key action lines that will operationalise the strategic measures in the AEC Blueprint 2025. It takes into account the relevant sectoral workplans, and will be reviewed periodically to account for developments in each sector.
The inaugural issue of the ASEAN Economic Integration Brief (AEIB) was released on 30 June 2017. The AEIB provides regular updates on ASEAN economic integration progress and outcomes, and is a demonstration of ASEAN’s commitment to strengthen communication and outreach to raise stakeholder awareness of the AEC.
The AEC Blueprint 2025 will lead towards an ASEAN that is more proactive, having had in place the structure and frameworks to operate as an economic community, cultivating its collective identity and strength to engage with the world, responding to new developments, and seizing new opportunities. The new Blueprint will not only ensure that the 10 ASEAN Member States are economically integrated, but are also sustainably and gainfully integrated in the global economy, thus contributing to the goal of shared prosperity.
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WE BELONG to the Asean region. The 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2003, these countries agreed to integrate their economies.
In 2007, the members of the Asean countries approved a “blueprint” to guide each member on initiatives and measures to achieve regional integration which is scheduled for 2015. Asean integration allows its member-countries (and the citizens of those countries) to join in the free flow of capital, labor, services, goods, and foreign investments.
For the Philippines, this is a big challenge because integration will also mean that Asean members will pay less tax, less custom duties, and less import taxes. This pattern follows the European Common Market (European Union). In our case we will also have the Asean Common Market. The Philippines (as a member) will consider people and products from the Asean region, as if they are people and products of our country also.
This is good for Filipinos because there will be a wider door for job markets in the region. But then, the job market will be tougher. We have to compete with other qualified applicants from the region. We have already proven in the past (before Asean integration) that Filipinos can best adapt to multicultural workplaces. We are good in English. (I would like to believe that.)
Now, I will go to this controversial issue. That could also be the reason why we have this regional community approach to integration of education in the region. This could be the reason why the K to 12 Program has been instituted so that we can level off with Asean and the rest of the world. (I am not just sure if our expert planners in education and also our Congress have made a careful study before the implementation of the program.)
Keen observers say that there is the synchronization of the academic calendar of Asean universities to accommodate the mobility of the faculty and students within the region. Look at this, only the Philippines has its school opening in June. Most universities in Japan, Korea, China, and North America start their academic calendar in August or September.
Sen. Miriam Santiago said, “The synchronization of the academic calendar of the Philippine universities with most Asean, European, and American academic partners will create more joint programs and partnerships with other universities and allow students to get transfer credits from different universities in the Asean.”
The strengthening of our universities is a necessity because we want to compete with the world as global athletes, not just barangay warriors. That could be the reason why we should involve the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Department of Labor and Employment to have that assurance that our training, skills, subjects, and courses would fit competition in the world market.
I know that our K to 12 Program has more lapses and creates problems. That is why government experts (if we have experts) should come in and look into the program with cyclonic eyes, and reconstruct or improve our system of education in the country. Let us not give rooms for doubt to our parents and educators that the people upstairs who are in-charge simply ponder. When there is trouble, they delegate. When they are in doubt, they mumble.
In our province, we only identify few specialist schools for Technical-Vocational, School of the Arts, Agriculture, Fisheries, Information Technology, and Tourism. How about our secondary schools in coastal areas and upland barangays which are far away from pilot schools? I also know that some basic problems have not been answered…lack of classrooms, books, working tools and equipment, laboratory facilities, and competent teachers.
I know that our colleges and universities in Bacolod and Negros Occidental have problems. Solve your problems (easier said than done) and get ready (if not ready yet) for Asean integration. Make inventory of your desirable assets: qualified administrative staff; experienced educators and mentors; internationally responsive academic programs; school buildings with classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology; and a beautiful and world-class campus conducive to teaching-learning activities.
Let us show the world that our institutions of learning are geared towards total human growth, spiritual development, and economic uplift. (You can add more.) All these will attract foreign students and scholars. This will also convince Filipino students to patronize their own colleges and universities.