To  inform the stakeholders about  the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015 in the region, the Regional Development Council (RDC) 1 conducted an AEC Forum at Hotel Ariana, Bauang, La Union on April 16.

During the forum, participants were informed on the impact of the AEC to the country’s economy,  free trade agreements, industry roadmap on agriculture  and  various initiatives on the AEC’s  implementation.

Ms. Glenda Reyes and Mr. Francis Peñaflor, speakers from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Trade and Industry (Industry Development Group) respectively, emphasized that the AEC will be a great opportunity for the Philippines to boost its economy.  The AEC’s objective is to create a competitive market of over 600 million people in ASEAN countries, namely: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

According to Reyes and Peneflor, among the benefits of the integration include free flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labor.  Meanwhile, tariff reduction  for selected commodities and services and streamlining of certain administrative procedures are also among the agreements under the integration blueprint. The  AEC will also provide better tourism opportunities as new Asian travelers begin to visit the country.

The country has been preparing for years to meet the challenges and opportunities  under the AEC. In the case of Region 1, there are programs and projects already  being implemented by both public and private sectors prior to the integration. These include promotion and adoption of food safety and quality standards, streamlining of business licensing, improvement of road networks and other needed infrastructure, development of ICT, intensification of tourism campaigns and implementation of K to 12 program for the education sector, among others. These strategies are vital  to make Region 1 more prepared on the impacts of  regional integration.

The RDC-1 hopes that the result of this initiative and succeeding activities aimed at localizing the Philippine game plans and industry road maps will serve as input in updating the regional development plan as well as guide in repositioning the region within the framework of the AEC as it  strives  to achieve its vision as the Agribusiness and Tourism powerhouse in Northern Philippines.