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This blog presents my personal view, as a Filipino, on the ASEAN integration conceptualized in 2000, implemented in 2002, reinforced in 2009 and expected to run at full swing by the end of 2015. ASEAN integration is such a large-scale undertaking involving all of Southeast Asia that all constituents should be aware of.
What Is ASEAN Integration 2015?
The ASEAN integration 2015 is aimed at creating a united region, the Southeast Asian region, which shall give rise to the establishment of a regional community. When this vision comes to fruition, the international barrier within Southeast Asia will be no more.
This video gives a brief introduction into the ASEAN integration.
Who Will Be Affected by This Integration?
All 600 million citizens of the 10 member-states of ASEAN will have to embrace the ASEAN integration 2015. These states are the following:
1. Philippines 6. Brunei
2. Indonesia 7. Viet Nam
3. Malaysia 8. Laos
4. Singapore 9. Myanmar
5. Thailand 10. Cambodia
Can We Stop This Integration?
No. Whether we like it or not and whether we know about it or not, the integration will push through because the Philippines is a part of the ASEAN. In fact, our country, along with four others, is a founding member of ASEAN when they met on 1967.
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Three Pillars of the ASEAN Integration 2015
Sharing not only history, geography, mutual interests and culture but also comparable problems and challenges, the 10 member-states envision a region that is politically, economically and socially stable.
The following are the three pillars of the ASEAN integration:
#1 – Political Security
Each member-state will work hand in hand and more closely to address such security issues as disaster management, maritime piracy and transnational crimes, among others. However, each member-state’s sovereignty will always be preserved and respected.
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#2 – Economic Stability
The Southeast Asian nations will be converted into a single production and market base, a vastly competitive region, a region where fair economic development exists, and a region completely assimilated into the global economy.
Free trade between the 10 member-states is expected. One way to realize that goal is to reduce or eliminate tariffs on trade, with some exceptions, to better promote trade. This makes doing business in the region less costly.
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#3 – Social Understanding
The end goal of this integration is to establish a region where all citizens care for and share with one another. This region is created with the people’s welfare in mind. That’s why each member-state is expected to heavily invest on training, education, science and technology development, social protection and job generation.
Also, people are expected to accept a regional identity. This aims to help ASEAN citizens understand each other and learn the idiosyncrasies of each culture. This may be realized by allowing a freer contact between ASEAN citizens. To this end, travel without visa is conceptualized, as well as educational exchanges.
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Challenges Faced by the ASEAN Integration
After its implementation in 2002, the ASEAN integration was reinforced by providing a roadmap of plans that should be followed by all member-states to ensure the success of the ASEAN integration initiative come its maturation year 2015.
However, the road to successful integration is paved with many challenges on the part of each participating state, most of which are domestic in nature. These obstacles have to be overcome at all costs to attain the desired ASEAN community by the end of 2015.
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The following are some of the challenges faced by the ASEAN member-states toward full integration:
#1 – Poverty
Poverty has been a concern of many nations, not only the ASEAN members, since time immemorial. Although these countries have seen promising progress in eradicating poverty in their respective jurisdictions, much is still left to be done to ensure each state is of equal standing in relation to one another.
In 2010 alone, 100 million people around the world were living in grave poverty. These are individuals earning lower than US $2 per day. If ASEAN leaders are to ensure the ultimate goal of the integration is realized, poverty must be significantly reduced, if not eradicated, among their ranks. After all, improving the quality of life and the general standard of living of its constituents is the main goal of the ASEAN integration initiative.
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#2 – Law Amendments
This goes without saying, but law amendments are a requisite to make sure each member-state communicates with each other well and full cooperation is achieved. This is one area where Indonesia and the Philippines, for instance, have a lot of disparity. A lot of work is left to be done to ensure maximum cooperation among Southeast Asian nations.
In Thailand’s case, 106 laws have to be amended so that the action plans listed in the ASEAN blueprint will be fully implemented. While the incumbent leadership of Thailand considers the ASEAN integration a top priority, some members of the legislative are not in line with this intention. As it currently stands, Thailand is going to reach the deadline without fully achieving compliance as promised.
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#3 – Internal Conflict
Another big challenge toward integration is the internal conflict among groups within a nation. Not only does this delay the realization of the objectives of the integration, but it also hampers the growth of a nation in general.
Ethnic group affiliation makes people identify themselves more with people in their community than with others outside of it. In Malaysia, for instance, covert tension exists among Hindus, Malays and Chinese-Malaysians. How can people in this state think of an ASEAN mindset if they don’t even identify themselves with people in their own nation?
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There is no need to look even further. In the Philippine setting, the government and some armed Muslim forces in Mindanao have been in a standoff for quite a long time. Achieving peace has been an elusive dream for many people in Mindanao, although peace negotiations have been made over the years.
In the ranks of the Bangsamoro constituents, rido between Muslim clans still exists until now. Even if deliberation for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has been set in motion, there is no guarantee that the Bangsamoro government will be able to put an end to the age-old war and conflicts in Mindanao.
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#4 – Promoting Awareness
Without making people feel they are constituents of the ASEAN, how can we achieve the desired regional community that initiators of the integration envisioned? Sadly, a shared identity does not exist among Southeast Asians.
For Filipinos, this idea of an ASEAN identity is not present. We prefer to interact more with Americans than we do with our neighbors like the Vietnamese or the Indonesians. This same inclination is likewise observed among Cambodians and Vietnamese. They seem to get along better with Japanese, Europeans and Westerners than with Malaysians, Filipinos or Indonesians.
This video explains how Philippines is readying for the ASEAN integration.
#5 – Cultural Diversity and Historical Differences
Cultural diversity might sound beautiful to the ears, but it can actually act as a barrier to a successful ASEAN integration knowing that it also works as a reminder of the unresolved issues between countries, mostly related to territorial disputes.
One example is the long-time feud between Cambodia and Thailand concerning the Preah Vihear temple and the neighboring areas. Khmer and Thai military forces have had clashes from 2008 to 2011 over possession of the temple premises, which sit close to the border. Both states claim the area as their own and would not let up. At present the temple belongs to the Kingdom of Cambodia, to which Thailand has not acceded.
A recent example of another conflict that erupted between members of the ASEAN is the North Borneo dispute, which happened on February 11, 2013. In that incident, 68 out of 200 people from the Sulu forces and 10 members of the Malaysian forces died, along with two civilians. Despite the bloodshed, the Sultanate of Sulu gained nothing, while Malaysia considered the issue on territorial domain long resolved in their favor. That incident only marred the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and Malaysia.
This video compares the ASEAN integration to the European Union and lays down the challenges faced by the member-states.
My Personal Point of View
As conceptualized, 2015 marks the beginning of the ASEAN region, or ASEAN Economic Community. Member-states will enjoy free trade among themselves, and products will have a single production and market base. Capital, investments and labor will flow much freely. These are some of the objectives of the ASEAN integration as envisioned in 2000.
Fifteen years is about to expire since the formulation of the integration plan. Are we going to see a fully integrated ASEAN community by the end of 2015? The answer is very unlikely. One reason is that many Filipinos, if not most, have no idea about the ASEAN integration.
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The government failed to inform the public about a big change that is going to affect everyone. One example is the K-to-12 program. Many wonder why it was implemented and the government did not even mention the concept of ASEAN integration in relation to the program’s implementation.
One strong criticism on the ASEAN integration is that it is limited to the leaders of the member-states and ordinary citizens have no say or participation over its implementation. I can say this is completely true in the context of the Philippines. Filipinos hardly, if ever, heard about the ASEAN integration, though they are directly affected by it, both in good and bad terms.
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One observer says that ASEAN is just a grouping, not a community. How can we have a regional community if we can’t see ourselves as Southeast Asians and we feel alienated with others belonging to the same group? We tend to relate more with Americans, Europeans, Japanese and Koreans than we do with people from our own region.
We have no ASEAN mindset to start off. For Filipinos, our closest identity is being Asians. Being a Southeast Asian is the next step down the line. Unless the government instills value concerning our ASEAN identity, we will continue to think and look outside of our region.
This video gives insights into the ASEAN integration and poses the question about the readiness of the Philippines toward this integration.
1. Julio Amador III & Joycee A. Teodoro. www.rappler.com.
2. David Lozada. www.rappler.com.
3. Kavi Chongkittavorn. www.nationmultimedia.com. asi