The DTI recently held a dialogue with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to address their concerns regarding the deepening integration process of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). These include environment and climate change, protection of workers, women, indigenous peoples, and social inequality, among others. The ASEAN CSOs hoped that these will be discussed during the 31st Meeting of the High-Level Task Force on ASEAN Economic Integration (HLTF-EI) scheduled on 15-16 February in Metro Manila.
During the dialogue, Trade and Industry Undersecretary for Industry Development Dr. Ceferino S. Rodolfo explained the role of HLTF-EI in providing overall guidance to the AEC process and assured the group that “the concerns expressed here today will be proposed by the Philippines for discussion with the trade vice ministers of ASEAN during the HLTF-EI Meeting.” Undersecretary Rodolfo is the Philippine HLTF-EI Lead.
“The Philippines’ agenda priorities focus on inclusiveness and innovation. Consultations with our stakeholders ensure that these priorities are aligned with the domestic agenda. Hosting ASEAN this year gives us the opportunity to advance our country’s interests and provide the way forward in ensuring that regional economic integration guarantees inclusive and sustainable growth of the region’s citizens.” He emphasized that as Chair of ASEAN 2017, the country is advancing matters on social disparities which include issues ranging from energy, environmental protection and climate change mitigation, women empowerment, education, decent employment and labor standards, and safeguards against race-to-the-bottom policies.
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) President Dr. Eduardo Tadem noted that the Philippine Chairmanship of ASEAN for 2017 provides an avenue to articulate observations, views and insights on the country’s participation in ASEAN and in FTAs but reminded government to safeguard the rights of those affected in the ongoing integration process. “Kaya po kami nandito upang ipahayag na hindi kami tutol sa integrasyon, ngunit ang integrasyon na aming hangad ay ang tumutugon sa pangangailangan ng mga mamamayan, kumakalinga sa kalikasan, at pumuprotekta sa karapatang pantao, said Mr. Joseph Purugganan, coordinator of the Focus on the Global South – Philippines. (We are here to state that we are not opposed to integration, but the integration we desire should address the needs of the people, nurtures the environment, and protects human rights).
Chang Jordan from the Women’s Legal Bureau, highlighting the weakness of market conditions to provide equal opportunities to women, particularly in poorer countries, cautioned that ASEAN integration may not succeed if it fails to take into consideration the systemic and intersectional dimension of discrimination, oppression, and exclusion.
The dialogue ended on a high note with a strong commitment for continued and sustained consultations between the government and civil society to strengthen collaboration among the CSOs, the government, and working groups under the Philippine ASEAN 2017 Chairmanship.
The CSOs in attendance were Aksyon para sa Kahandaan sa Kalamidad at Klima, Buhay na may Dignidad para sa Lahat, Focus on the Global South – Philippines, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Piglas Kababaihan, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, PhilWomen on ASEAN Network, Sustainability and Participation through Education and Lifelong Learning, and Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau. (PR)