Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Is Aklan Ready For ASEAN 
Economic Integration?
by Ernesto T. Solidum

“Enhancing Aklan’s Competency for Asean Integration” is the topic of the weekly Kapihan held last week at NVC Carmen Hotel. The guests are: Dr. Jesse M. Gomez, Schools Div. Supt., DepEd Aklan, Dr. Julius Jamero, Prov’l. Director TESDA, Rosalinda Regalado, DTI and Hon. Plaridel Morania – SP Aklan member.

ASEAN was founded in 1967, originally composed of five countries namely: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Later, five more countries joined the bandwagon: Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Brunei. ASEAN aims to create a region of peace, freedom and prosperity. It is envisioned to cover 600 million people, achieve GDP of $2 trillion and the 7th largest economy in the world. The ASEAN Economic Community will establish single market, production base, and develop highly competitive region.

The targeted growth are on agri-aqua and forestry-based products, tourism, electronics, textiles, apparels, health care, and services. The International Monetary Fund forecasts averaged GDP growth of 4.5 percent in the leading countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

In 1989 ASEAN has forged inter-regional economic cooperation with 21 Pacific rim countries (APEC), hence the Ministerial and Technical Working Group meetings in Boracay scheduled on September 28 to October 26, 2015. Event will discuss the agenda on food security.

Dr. Gomez noted that strategy toward competency of Aklan for ASEAN Integration is the implementation of Enhanced Education Act of 2013 or RA 10533. This means 12 years basic education instead of the usual 10 years. It should be noted that almost all countries of the world are having this set-up. Kids will have 1 year kindergarten, 6 years elementary, 4 years junior and 2 years senior high school to specialize skills in tech voc, literature and arts, science and humanities said Gomez.

DTI’s program is geared mainly on strengthening SME’s through market promotions, leveraging industries for supply chain, product development and share service facility, disclosed Ms. Regalado. Our trade fair and exhibits display encapsulizes the “One Town One Product” (OTOP) strategy participated in by small and medium entrepreneurs. Our “Go Negosyo Center” will open in April 2015 and will cater to clients who will start their own business whose products are in big demand, affordable and of high quality.

Director Jamero underscored the need to empower our educational institutions by realigning the curriculum (K+12) and training regulations. TESDA offers 300 technical skills, produced 6 million graduates for the last 20 years. More than half have successfully passed the competency test and 65 percent of our graduates are fully employed.

It is noted that a considerable percentage of the labor force lack diligence and behavioral attitude but this can be overcome by proper training. Our problem in tech voc courses is usually poor communication skills.

We have oversubscribed degree courses in HRM, Nursing and Education that largely contribute to 80 percent of them frustrated in finding jobs. Window of opportunity could be taking up tech voc courses, pass the competency test and apply for overseas employment, Dr. Jamero emphasized.

Competency is synonyms to competitiveness. It is based on strength of government institutions, infra, health and other services, labor and goods, market efficiency, market size, technical capacity and sophistication of the business sector. Based on 2012-13 Global Competitiveness Report, China ranked 69th while the Philippines is 98th. China’s Progressive economy is largely due to massive investments in transport infra.

Given that we are implementing K+12 education plan our level of competency will be known after 2016. Presently, DepEd is besieged by shortage of teachers, classrooms, basic textbooks and high pupil dropout.

Despite its sustained GDP growth of 6.8 percent in 2012, 7.2 percent in 2013 and 6.1 percent in 2014, practically 60 percent of Philippine population is poor and 40 percent food-starve. Data show that 36 percent of pupils drop out of school in elementary while only 40 percent graduate from high school. DepEd budget in 2015 is the highest, P365 billion. This can elevate teaching competencies of teachers but our basic education fails miserably in satisfactory performance in Science and Mathematics. Our low test scores vis-avis other Asean countries suggest need to re-orient our curriculum to the basics and droping unnecessary ones. For instance, DepEd needs to exclude sports since this is part of the agenda of the Philippine Sports Commission.

Meanwhile, a London-based organization – Quacquaelli Synod Intelligence Unit reported that 4 of our best universities in the country in 2012 got low ratings compared to previous years. UP dropped to 68th from 62nd, Ateneo de Manila University – 86th from 65th, De la Salle University – 142nd from 107th and UST – 148th from 107th.

The Philippines is characterized by a small manufacturing sector, low investment and the presence of several imbalances – uneven productivity across sectors, huge output gaps between large corporations and SME’s and unbalanced geographical distribution of income.

The recommendation of European Chamber of Commerce and Industry is for Philippine craftsmen to have additional 1 ½ to 2 years apprenticeship before employment in manufacturing jobs. Government is urged to pursue new industrial policy in view of ASEAN Integration. DTI has come up with a list of competitive products namely: copper ore, raw tobacco, vegetables, textile fibers, knitted clothing, machinery products, and chemical products.

Boracay, being one of international cruise ships destination, products recommended are: coco sugar, malunggay tea, San Miguel beer, fresh Philippine mangoes and bananas. About 10-12 cruise ships dock at Caticlan Jetty Port every year.

Pres. Aquino has signed RA 10641 or Act Liberizing the Entry and Scope of Operation of Foreign Banks in the Philippines. Credit is necessary for infra, product identification technology transfer, post harvest facilities, market access and producing the goods.

Ironically, Land Bank of the Philippines created by law to address the needs of local farmers and CARP beneficiaries allots only 36 percent of its loan portfolio to agriculture, agribusiness and agri-related projects while 64 percent to other sectors – energy, housing, transportation and SME’s. The bank justifies its policy because of fiduciary responsibility to its private sector creditors.

Annual report of LBP in 2013 shows: of the P729 billion loan for farmers and fisher-folks only 1.8 percent was released. For the production sector, out of P5 billion, only 0.1 percent was availed.

Considering the poor accessibility of small stakeholders to formal credit, strong recommendation are to: a) simplify Feasibility Studies to filing banks, b) provision of enough staff members to assist farmers/fisher-folks, c) reduce number of required documents in banking, and d) reduce from 36 to 5 working days in loan processing and transaction. 

Enhancing global competitiveness requires guts and skills. It needs steps. 

Is Aklan prepared for the ASEAN Economic Integration this year? /MP 

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