March 15, 2018

For regional cooperation to be more inclusive, the Philippine government must do more to enhance the country’s competitiveness and to promote cultural exchanges, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.

In a speech at a conference in Makati City last Friday, NEDA Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon said that Philippines has much to gain from being part of economic blocs in the region, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

“One benefit, for example, is in the area of trade. However, even in this regional grouping, we have an inherent disadvantage due to our geography.  We even have a different cultural background from our ASEAN neighbors,” Edillon said.

Given its geographical disadvantage, the Philippines should give focus on cultural tourism and attract foreigners to take a peek into Filipino culture, she said.

Edillon explained the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, the Philippines’ blueprint for socioeconomic development, outlines strategies to boost tourism along with measures to improve the country’s “behind-the-border competitiveness,” particularly in the areas of human capital, infrastructure, logistics and transport, and good governance.

“The key message is that regional cooperation does lead to inclusive growth.  Then again, significant reforms and improvements need to be undertaken to be part of any regional cooperation. Following such, we move closer to our goal of achieving inclusive growth,” the NEDA official said.

Meanwhile, in the same conference, NEDA Undersecretary for Regional Development Adoracion M. Navarro underscored the role of efficient, quality and well-developed infrastructure as a key driver in the country’s economic growth.

“Improving the venue for regional cooperation and increasing people’s access to infrastructure is essential to create more economic opportunities and growth for the country,” Navarro said, highlighting infrastructure opportunities the country can get from ASEAN cooperation.

Noting the country’s gains from foreign loans and assistance, Navarro said Php1 trillion or 13 percent of the Php7.7 trillion total investment requirements in the Public Investment Program (PIP) 2017-2022, a list of the government’s priority programs and projects, will come from Official Development Assistance (ODA).

“Given the huge infrastructure investments needs, ASEAN may further strengthen its economic partnerships through investment-related activities by supporting infrastructure connectivity in the region,” the NEDA official added.

Friday’s conference was hosted by the International Studies Department of the De La Salle University (DLSU) in cooperation with Angelo King Institute for Economic and Business Studies.