ASEAN Economic Integration won’t threaten PH service sector – official

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/06 March) – There will be no unregulated entry of foreigners in the service sector in the country as a result of the upcoming implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Integration late this year, an official said Thursday.

Speaking at the forum on Philippine international trade strategy here organized by the Department of Trade and Industry, Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo said the issuance of visa and compliance with some requirements would be eased up for professionals from other ASEAN member-countries who may wish to work in the Philippines.

Rodolfo, however, clarified that foreign professionals such as doctors will still be subject to regulations set by the Department of Labor and Employment.

He said the practice of profession by foreigners in the country would not be as open and easy as feared. “This is subject to pre-agreed flexibilities.”

The ASEAN integration will usher in a more open trade in goods and services among member-states of the regional body mainly through the elimination of tariffs. It aims, among others, to counter-balance the growth of China and India as the dominant economies in Asia and as emerging world powers.

In trade in goods, Rodolfo said that since 2010 there have been zero tariffs except for items like rice, poultry and swine.

But the official admitted that liberalizing trade within the ASEAN carries some dangers. One of these, he said, is that an ASEAN state might be used by a non-ASEAN country as a transshipment point to any destination in the region to evade tariffs.

He said this can be easily detected if the product that arrives from a fellow ASEAN member is not a usual item it is trading with its neighbors.

He said it is now job of the Bureau of Customs to conduct a verification visit to the supposed country of origin.

Rodolfo further noted that local industries might not be able to maximize the liberalized trading regime due to the reluctance of many entrepreneurs to test foreign markets.

“Local businesses are content with local markets. There is no eagerness to expand abroad,” he said.

The official said he has talked to some local manufacturers who told him they were no longer eyeing foreign markets because they were already earning from local buyers.

He said one remedy is to remain competitive in quality to safeguard against the entry of foreign brands. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)