Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., chairman of the Senate local governments committee, asked yesterday the business sector and the academe to prepare and face the challenges of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Integration this year. ASEAN Integration envisions the ASEAN to become one economic region wherein the inter-operability and interrelations among its members are characterized by a “free flow of capital and investments, free flow of goods, free flow of services and skilled labor. In a speech before the 2nd A-BEST (Association of Business Educators and Students of the Philippines) Philippines, Inc. National Congress at Subic Bay Travellers Hotel, Marcos urged the business sector and students to work together to prepare the country’s workers and businesses to face the challenges to be brought by the ASEAN Integration program. He asked the students to study hard and take to heart the lessons they learned in school . “Please be warned that the world out there is cruel and competitive. Better prepare for it now under the guidance of your schools and teachers, than learn the hard way later—when all will be too late,” Marcos said. Marcos said educators should work hard to ensure our graduates would have the skills and knowledge to match or even surpass those from other ASEAN countries. Among others, Marcos said students should be trained to study the markets and economies, consumer behavior, competition behavior, finance and marketing, as well as in taking a comprehensive approach to monitoring the cost of doing business for increased competitiveness and profitability. “Now, it may be prudent to undertake curriculum review of our business courses at this crucial turning point of our history. Maybe we so need to include subjects on the economy, culture and language of our ASEAN neighbors,” he said. Likewise, Marcos said our schools should encourage more and grant incentives to research and development, in order to spur business creativity and innovation among our Filipino students. Marcos said that while the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is saying that the Philippines is “primed and ready for integration,” we should not be complacent. He said it is reassuring to note that there are organizations such as the A-BEST Philippines, which takes a keen interest in protecting the country’s interest and readiness for the ASEAN integration. “Let’s show our ASEAN counterparts that our business graduates have the skills, knowledge and confidence to face the challenges of the ASEAN Economic Community, Marcos said.