Friday, January 23, 2015

Legarda to Youth: ASEAN Integration Brings Opportunities, Challenges

MANILA-While the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Integration brings many opportunities—free flow of goods, services, investment capital, education and skilled labor—there are key challenges that the region needs to overcome in order to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth, Senator Loren Legarda today told youth leaders and student participants of the ASEAN Youth Summit 2015 at the De La Salle University Manila.

“As we pursue the pathway that will bring the economies and people of ASEAN under a single economic community, we also have to be mindful of some obstacles and challenges that hound the people of the region such as the issues of poverty eradication, income distribution and equality, high infant and child mortality rate, poor sanitation, among others,” Legarda stressed.

She added, “The agenda of poverty eradication is one of the goals of ASEAN, and yet, nearly 50 years after its creation, almost 13% or 76 million of the region’s people continue to live below the World Bank’s international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.”

Legarda pointed out other concerns—more than one third of the region’s people have no access to improved drinking water sources; about 415 infants die each day in the region; and income distribution and equality concerns abound as evidenced by the fact that GDP per capita across ASEAN countries can be as low as 800 US Dollars to a high of 49,000 US Dollars.

“The words ‘ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)’ invite optimism, but they also evoke a sense of uncertainty and even fear for some. Much work obviously needs to be done in order that this community that we all seek to build will be relevant and will help usher in a higher quality of life for our people,” she said.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, also said that resilience and sustainable development should be at the core of the AEC, stressing that, “We must realize that we are living in a world with finite resources and yet generations have lived over the centuries like there is no tomorrow. If we truly want the ASEAN Economic Community to be successful, we must learn to co-exist with our environment.”

She added that disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation must be linked with local, national and regional development planning.

“The ASEAN Community is geographically located in one of the most disaster prone regions of the world. Moreover, climate change has already made its presence felt in our region and in our respective countries. It is a must that development policies should promote effective risk reduction towards sustainable and resilient growth,” said Legarda.

Clark hosts APEC Special Senior Finance Officials Meeting

CLARK FREEPORT-Clark Freeport played host this week to the two-day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Special Senior Finance Officials Meeting.
Held at Holiday Inn, it featured sessions on the general overview of the Cebu Action Plan, Promoting Financial Integration, Advancing Financial Transparency, and Enhancing Financial Resiliency among others.
The Cebu Action Plan is envisioned to provide a stepping stone towards an APEC Community that is more financially integrated, transparent, and resilient. In a decade, APEC economies should have harmonized policies, rules, and practices that enable and /or facilitate,” APEC said in a statement.
This shall include free trade and free flow of cross border investments, good governance that results to sustainability and inclusive economic growth, and rapidly growing and robust financial markets that offer diversified financial instruments.
Roadmap of the Cebu Action Plan consists of three action programs namely Promoting Financial Integration, Advancing Financial Transparency, and Enhancing Financial Resiliency.
“Financial Integration in the Asia Pacific can pave the way for greater intra regional trade and investment, as well as more developed financial markets across APEC economies. Financial integration can bring forth various mechanisms that support trade and investments and at the same time widen financial markets in terms of products, service providers, and investors,” APEC added.
Moreover, Financial Transparency is an essential component of good governance as it allows for greater scrutiny that in turn leads to a more efficient use of government resources for development priorities.
APEC economies are enjoined to cooperate on practices fostering financial transparency such as reporting of fiscal data, exchange of information on tax policies and financial transaction across borders, auditing of uses of funds among government agencies, and making the information on and conduct of government procurement process more accessible to the public.
“And lastly, sustainable and inclusive growth and financial market development can only be achieved through macroeconomic stability. Prolonged intra regional trade and investments also rely on the soundness of its participating economies. An important tool in attaining macroeconomic stability is financing resiliency. Financing resiliency entails among others, the creation of sufficient fiscal space that can be used when shocks to the economy arise,” APEC added.
APEC began as an informal dialogue group in 1989, but has since become the premier forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade, and investment in the Asia Pacific region.
Apart from the Philippines, other members include Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; and Viet Nam.
This year’s meetings carry the theme “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World.” (Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

Congress sets target up to June 2015 Drilon says other major bills won’t take back seat due to Bangsamoro debates

MANILA-Though the Congress is intent on passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law within the first quarter of the year, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said the Congress will also work double-time in ensuring the passage of what it has identified as “must-pass’ measures before the end of the second regular session in June 2015, which mostly include legislation that will sustain fiscal and economic growth and provide job opportunities to millions of Filipinos.

Among these bills are the amendments to the Built-Operate-Transfer Law, the Fair Competition Act, Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives Act, the rationalization of the mining revenues, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, and the amendments to the Charter of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Also included in the “must-pass” legislation are the postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan elections, creation of the Department of Information and Communication Technology, the Philippine Immigration Act, the creation of information and communications technology hub, definition of public utilities, and the Magna Carta of the Poor.

“Our schedule is a bit tight considering that we only have six session weeks before we adjourn in March 19. The scheduled SK election next month is just around the corner, so a decision has to be made immediately whether to allow the elections of new set of SK officers or postpone it further to October 2016 to give Congress more time to overhaul the current SK system,” said Drilon. The SK elections are scheduled for February 21.

Drilon said that by synchronizing the SK elections with the barangay elections, there will more time for current system to be reviewed and reforms be introduced, while saving public funds and precious time.

Drilon said the SK postponement along with the BBL shall be passed within the first quarter of the year: “We will have to strictly follow our schedule, because this bill that will create and embed peace in Mindanao still has to go through a lot of process including the ratification by the areas covered by the law, and the ratification should take place before the election period,” he added.

The Senate leader also emphasized that the Congress will deal with a number of legislation that will help the country sustain its fiscal and economic growth amid emerging challenges, provide assistance to the poor and enhance ICT in the country.

The Congress will re-work the Magna Carta of the Poor to provide more complete and stable programs for the poor. He said the budgetary requirement of the proposed law will be included in the annual national budget.

It will also work on a bill that will mandate the establishment of ICT hubs in the country to support the growing demand for technology and the creation of a Department of Information and Communication Technology to supervise and implement policies on ICT.

Drilon said that a new agency devoted to improving the national capacity in the information and communications technology sector is all but necessary for a nation like the Philippines: "We are close to being the top business process outsourcing nation in the world, yet our ICT capacities are insufficient in several aspects, such as internet speed," Drilon said. 


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