Saturday, February 28, 2015

Drilon: Liberalized PHL legal profession needed for ASEAN integration

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today underscored the need to liberalize the Philippine legal profession to permit foreign lawyers to practice in the country, and help Filipino law practitioners to keep pace with the market and policy shifts as a result of the ASEAN integration. 

At the ASEAN Law Association Assembly last February 27, Drilon told justices, judges, and other leading law practitioners in the ASEAN region that the ASEAN integration poses a challenge to members of the legal profession. 

"As the integration calls for a free exchange of resources, we must ask ourselves: what does integration mean to the legal profession? What is its impact to the practice of law? In this era of integration, the ASEAN lawyer must learn to navigate multiple legal jurisdictions," Drilon said. 

"At current growth rates, it is predicted that the ASEAN would become the fourth-largest market, after the EU, U.S. and China, by 2030. However, full ASEAN integration poses a challenge to every ASEAN member country. The existing legal framework may not be sufficient for the region to achieve a completely free exchange of goods and services," Drilon said. 

He underscored that a stronger and more efficient legal apparatus will help the Philippines capitalize on all the economic and development opportunities provided by the ASEAN integration. 

"Currently, in the Philippines the practice of law is currently restricted only to Filipino lawyers. This proposal for liberalization allows for collaborative work between Filipino and foreign lawyers where the matter or transaction involves both domestic and foreign law," he explained. 

He said it is time to establish a procedure in which foreign lawyers and firms may be able to assist their clients in cross border transactions where the Philippines is involved. 

"The liberalization of law practice will help strengthen the country's legal profession, and will help the country face the many challenges in the political and business sector being created due to the ASEAN Integration starting this year," stressed Drilon. 

He however, said that the proposed liberalization of law practice must ensure that foreign lawyers will live up to the standards and principles of lawyering in the Philippines, a practice that requires loyalty to the rule of law, and fidelity to the cause of the client. 

The Senate leader then said that he hopes that the country's legal sector and policy makers will realize early the importance of adapting and liberalizing the country's  legal profession, and hoped that it will be a leader among ASEAN members in reforming and improving its practice of law. 

"While the practice of law in the ASEAN region may be a challenge, the liberalization of the legal profession will ultimately benefit the region as a whole. The long-term effect of a legal profession that recognizes no territorial boundaries goes into the success of the ASEAN integration itself." Drilon said. 

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