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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    12 September  2012

Asean’s most slow moving member, Philippines


The Philippines appears to be moving at a snail’s pace compared with its neighbours in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as the region nears the 2015 deadline for economic integration.

According to Romulo Virola, former secretary general of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the country either landed at the bottom half of the 10-member Asean or found its performance slipping in most indicators.

“Statistics show that there are more bad news than good news,” Virola said in a report.

There is a need to examine strategies, Virola said, so that the country can maximise the benefits coming from the integration.

“Maybe in 2020 we can look again at the statistics to see if we have become less wobbly,” Virola added in a text message.

Once integrated, the Asean expects a free flow of goods, services, investments and skilled workers across the region.

Asean groups Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, Myanmar and the Philippines.

Also, Virola said the country improved in terms of growth in gross domestic product (GDP) and GDP per capita, debt-to-GDP ratio, pupil-teacher ratio and adult literacy rate.

But statistics continued to show that the country rated poorly in terms of growth in exports and inflow of foreign direct investments.

Unemployment in the country was either the highest or second-highest among Asean countries, Virola added.

“Job creation needs to be addressed. When we looked at the income and expenditures of LGUs (local government units), we pointed to the enormous savings of many of the cities, municipalities and provinces. Why couldn’t we use those savings to generate employment?” he said.

Further, the report said that while the Philippines’ standing as a tourist destination in Asean remained the same, it is slowly losing its edge over Cambodia and slipping farther behind Vietnam.

Other indicators where the country’s performance is sliding are those that touch on life expectancy and mobile cellular subscriptions.

While the Philippines was able to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio, Virola said, it was not as fast as those in the countries behind Cambodia and ahead of Vietnam.
Also, despite having the second-highest enrolment ratio in secondary education among Asean countries, the country ranked only fourth in terms of the number of teaching staff.

“This may reflect on the quality of our secondary education, and with K-to-12 now in place, we would need even more teachers,” Virola said.

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