Senate to tackle ASEAN integration

Mandaue City, Cebu - How the country fares when member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integrate in 2015 will be the subject of hearings to be conducted by the Philippine Senate soon.

This was disclosed by Senator Benigno Aquino IV who was in Cebu last Friday to deliver his keynote speech at the 2013 Mandaue Business Summitt which highlighted the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce-organized Mandaue Business Month.

Aquino, who chairs the Senate committee on trade and commerce, said that he and Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara have already filed a resolution to schedule the hearing.

The newly elected senator, who is President Benigno S. Aquino III's cousin, said the hearings will basically discuss the Philippines' readiness for the coming ASEAN integration in about two years time.

"Our country has gone far in terms of growth and the macroeconomic numbers are proof that we have achieved so much compared with other Asian countries. They (other Asian countries) should be afraid of us once the integration happens in 2015," he said, in his speech before some 500 business leaders and stakeholders during the Summit held at the Cebu International Convention Center here.

Aquino said the level of preparedness differs per industry. "What helps are the different industry roadmaps that have been crafted with the help of the Department of Trade and Industry," he said.

Similarly, he said that the country's bid to achieve full inclusive growth needs the involvement of businesses and the encouragement of more Filipinos to become entrepreneurs.

Asean integration is to be viewed as an opportunity to provide other countries in the region with services and products, he said.

"Now is an exciting time to do business in our own shores," stressed Aquino.

Known as a social enterprise advocate before he entered politics, Aquino urged businesses to follow the model of social enterprises, wherein a commitment to engaging communities like farmers and fishermen is vital to poverty alleviation and the realization of inclusive growth,

He said companies can very well participate in contributing to the country's path to self-sustaining growth if they change some of their supply chain systems, such as sourcing their raw materials directly from the source and doing away with traders or middlemen.

Aquino said part of his committee's agenda is to subsidize companies employing a good inclusive supply chain approach.

He mentioned that Jollibee, for instance, is sourcing about eight percent of its onion requirements directly from farmers in the Philippines, instead of getting cheaper.