AFTA gab slated in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/23 November)– As part of local preparations for the full implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Free Trade Area (AFTA) or ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is spearheading this week a forum dubbed “Doing Business in Free Trade Areas.”

Junar Merla, DTI-Bukidnon senior development specialist, told MindaNews in a telephone interview they expect to gather 300 participants from the academe on Nov. 27 and about 100 businessmen, mainly local exporters and business chamber members, on Nov. 28.

Merla said officials from DTI’s Bureau of Export Trade Promotion (BETP) and a team from the De La Salle University will serve as key resource persons as part of local efforts to prepare for the full implementation of the AFTA 2015.

AFTA 2015 means going to the direction of a single market with duty free imports, single production base for 10 countries of 600 million consumers and $1.9 trillion in combined gross domestic product (GDP), or the total value of goods and services.

He said the BETP has slated similar nationwide forums but the Bukidnon leg has been advanced due to the push by the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (BKCCII) to mainstream discussions in the province in the run up to 2015.

Roderico Bioco, BKCCII president, said last week the Philippines “is not yet ready for the 2015 AEC because of a number of measures it failed to take.” He particularly cited that the value-added taxation system in the country puts Philippine industries at a disadvantage.

Merla said among those expected to attend from the business sector are exporters of banana and pineapple, cut flower, bagasse and rubber, among others.

He said they have also invited a number of participants from the province’s sugar industry, noting they are among those expected to get the brunt of the ASEAN economic integration among the local industries.

Merla said they have also invited representatives from Bukidnon’s cooperatives, through the Cooperative Development Authority, adding that a big number of cooperatives in the province are in the agri-business industry.

Representatives of local government units are also expected to attend the forums.

Noting the largest participants are from the academe, Merla said that students need to be aware of free trade agreements among ASEAN members since they would become the future leaders.

“We invited students taking business related courses for them to know more about the agreement, such as what products have zero or reduced tariff,” he added. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)