More regionally tailored industry roadmaps need to be put in place to strengthen the viability of local businesses and industries in light of the impending economic integration of the ASEAN economies by 2015.

This was revealed at the regional workshop and consultations on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) held at the cities of Cebu, Davao, and Butuan in 2013 and early part of 2014 with research fellows from state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) as resource speakers. The AEC forums were organized by the National Economic and Development Authority's Regional Offices 7, 11 and Caraga, in cooperation with the regional development councils and PIDS. The Institute's participation in these regional forums is part of its outreach and extension program.

PIDS Fellow Dr. Rafaelita Aldaba noted that "there is a need for a specific roadmap for each region. There are lots of potentials that can be tapped. The regional development plans may be updated and transformed into a roadmap similar to what the DTI is doing. This will provide regional content or regional dimension to these roadmaps."

"There are cases when a particular sector is seen as promising but is not taking off because of certain government policies. These are part of coordination failures or market failures that are present and which government should need to address. These are also one of the areas where roadmaps are focusing right now," Aldaba who is concurrently Assistant Secretary for Industry Development of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) added.

She said government is focusing on job and employment creation and inclusive growth. Even though economic growth has been remarkable in recent years, she noted that in order to sustain this at a high level, "it has to be inclusive and hence the focus on creating jobs".

Aldaba noted that regional consultations are needed to touch base with regional industry officials. These exercises are important "in assessing coordination failures, issues that government should address". She added that this helps in the process of formulating the industry roadmaps. "It is important that not only the manufacturers are consulted but the agriculture sector as well," Aldaba said.

Meanwhile, PIDS Research Fellow Erlinda Medalla assuaged fears about the possible negative impacts of ASEAN integration on local businesses. She explained to regional industry and business leaders that "integration has been going on and there is nothing to fear with the coming AEC in 2015." Presenting an overview of the economic integration and trade facilitation, Medalla described economic integration as a "work in progress". "The concept or idea of an ASEAN Economic Community started a little over two decades ago. AEC has been part of the Philippine trade reality for the past two decades," she said.

Other PIDS research fellows who presented in the regional AEC seminars with Aldaba and Medalla were Dr. Adoracion Navarro (Infrastructure and Logistics), Dr. Roehlano Briones (agriculture), and former PIDS president Dr. Josef Yap (Manufacturing Sector and Inclusive Growth).

Recent reports say an executive order for the roadmaps is set to be signed by President Aquino anytime soon. Industries that submitted roadmaps were the auto assembly and auto parts, copper, chemical, paper, cement, ceramic tiles, iron and steel, biodiesel, electronics, creative, bamboo, shipbuilding, garments and textile, mining, medical travel, processed-food, furniture, mass housing, and IT-BPM.

Tapped by the DTI-Board of Investments, PIDS led in the formulation of a comprehensive industrial roadmap that will facilitate the integration of these different industries, including small and medium enterprises, and transform manufacturing into a major source of growth and employment.

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