The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint outlines the plan of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to unify into a single market and production base. A priority focus for integration is the enhancement of trade among ASEAN member-countries and long-term competitiveness of food and agriculture products produced within ASEAN. Based on key-person interviews, this study identifies the specific gaps in the implementation of the blueprint in the case of Philippine agriculture and makes appropriate recommendations. The widest gaps in AEC Blueprint implementation appear to be in areas of cooperation related to private sector linkages, agricultural cooperatives, research and development (R and D), and technology transfer. For the private sector, a key factor accounting for the gap is preference for own networking and business arrangements. Development of producer cooperatives is at a nascent phase in the country.
The following measures are recommended: First, reexamine objectives and targets for cooperation with the private sector, agriculture cooperatives, R and D, and technology transfer. Trade standard harmonization is relatively easily justified; however, the collective rationale for cooperation in the other areas needs to be better articulated. Second, within trade standard harmonization, a couple of action items are: i) expediting completion of the ASEAN GAqP; and ii) highlighting the issue of small producer inclusion. ASEAN-wide mechanisms toward the inclusion of small producers hold a long-term potential for uplifting the livelihoods of millions of small farmers and fishers in Southeast Asia. However, this cannot follow the same modality as standards certification for large exporting companies. The blueprint objectives for cooperatives, including other types of producer associations, should be reexamined toward more collective approaches to gain approval and certification.