Since the Philippines’ membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 50 years ago, ASEAN has profoundly touched the lives of the every day, average Filipino in ways that many people do not realize.
From getting more bang for your buck through having more goods available at more wallet-friendly prices to being able to travel to the member states of ASEAN visa-free, there are a lot of reasons to celebrate the fact that the Philippines has been a part of ASEAN since day one.
Here are the top ten ways that ASEAN has changed your life:
- Improved well-being
The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has contributed significant improvements in the overall well-being of the peoples of ASEAN, narrowing of the development gap, strengthening of economic development, and the expansion of extra- and intra-ASEAN trade and investment.
- More choices for less
The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) has given Filipino consumers more goods to choose from at relatively cheaper prices. AFTA has raised the level of competition among suppliers and producers in the region, which benefits consumers in the sense that it has led to the production of higher quality products, more options for similar products, greater accessibility in finding products, and more importantly, products that come in more competitive and wallet-friendly prices.
- Visa-free travel
Travel bugs may already be aware of this but for those who have just been bitten, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can travel visa-free to all ten ASEAN Member States, although it is limited to certain periods. This, coupled with the cheaper cost of plane tickets from the Philippines to our ASEAN neighbours has fostered closer people-to-people ties and cultural exchanges among citizens of ASEAN. The close interaction of Filipinos with their ASEAN neighbours has opened minds and hearts in developing a deeper appreciation for the culture and heritage of our neighbours.
- Broader Career Opportunities
The ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs) – covering engineering, nursing, architecture, accountancy, medical practice, dental practice and tourism professions – allow Filipino professionals in these fields to work in any Southeast Asian country as long as they are authorized, licensed or certified by their respective authorities within the framework of the MRA.
- A Career Destination Close to Home
The proximity of the Philippines to our ASEAN neighbors has made ASEAN an attractive destination for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). According to the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, around 1,020,136 or 11.1% of all OFWs live and work in ASEAN and South Central Asia.
- Recognition of Educational and Technical Qualifications
The ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework or AQRF has supported recognition of educational and technical qualifications across participating ASEAN countries, facilitated lifelong learning, promoted and encouraged credit transfer and learner mobility, and has promoted worker mobility. This has made it easier for Filipinos who are in the pursuit of a more global and competitive work environment.
- Assistance in times of disaster
Close coordination among ASEAN member states has touched the lives of the average Filipino especially during the typhoon season because of the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief that are almost always provided by the armed forces of several ASEAN member states. The creation of the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Center) paved the way for stronger cooperation among ASEAN member states especially in times of disaster. The Philippines, being a disaster-prone country, has received assistance through the AHA Center, be it in the form of financial donations, goods and services (medical and transport), or through the capacity building of our disaster response teams.
- Combating piracy
The navies and coast guards of ASEAN member states continue to work together to combat maritime piracy and provide assistance to distressed fishermen especially during the typhoon season.
- Environmental protection and preservation
ASEAN has also contributed towards the protection of the environment and the preservation of the rich biodiversity in the region through the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB). The ACB serves as the secretariat of the ASEAN Heritage Parks Program which aims to preserve genetic diversity and maintain species diversity of plants and animals in their natural habitat. Eight of the 37 ASEAN Heritage Parks can be found in the Philippines: Apo Natural Park, Mount Makiling Natural Reserve, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park, Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park, Mount Malindang Range Natural Park, Tubbataha Reef Natural Parks, and Timpoong and Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument.
- Maintaining peace and stability
The Philippines benefits from a secure, stable and peaceful region. ASEAN member states have bound themselves to keep this regional order by signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) and other instruments, such as the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.