MANILA, Philippines – When it comes to the ASEAN economic integration, it is said the Philippines has competitive advantage in its highly-skilled workers “capable of working in every corner of the world.”
For years, the country loses many of them to higher-paying jobs abroad, but a foreign affairs official said better opportunities due to the ASEAN integration might just make them stay.
“Huwag po tayo masyadong mag-focus dun sa temporary movement. Although ang strength natin ay nasa tao – highly-skilled workers who can work in every corner of the world – palagay ko we will do a disservice to our practitioners kung i-train lamang po sila para mag-abroad. Ang opportunities po ay nandito sa atin,” Luis Cruz, assistant secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of ASEAN Affairs said on Tuesday, March 17.
(Let us not focus on temporary movement. Although our strength is in our people – highly-skilled workers who can work in every corner of the world – I think we will do a disservice to our practitioners if we train them to go abroad. Opportunities are here in the Philippines.)
Cruz was speaking at the 33rd anniversary of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), where health experts discussed the challenges and opportunities for health research and innovation in view of the impending ASEAN economic integration.
By the end of 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community will be established, marking the start of free trade among the organization’s 10 member-states allowing free flow of goods and services – health services included. (READ: A united region: The ASEAN Community 2015)
Cruz, citing the World Trade Organization, said that among 4 modes of trade in services, commercial presence will be the most important to ASEAN nations.
4 modes of trade in services:
- Cross-border – service crosses a national border
- Consumption abroad – services supplied in the territory of one country to the consumers of another
- Commercial presence – services supplied through a foreign-owned company
- Temporary movement of natural persons to another country, in order to provide services there
The integration is also expected to create 3.1 million more jobs in the country, according to a joint study by the International Labor Organization and the Asian Development Bank.
Meanwhile, Cruz said the temporary movement of people to another country, while common in the Philippines, will be the least important mode of trade in the ASEAN.
“Ang kayamanan po natin ay nasa tao at nasa ating mga resources,” Cruz said. (Our treasure is in our people and our resources)
Role of health sector
The Philippines’ rich human resource is just one of the 7 opportunities for health research and innovation during the ASEAN integration:
- Trade in services: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) on medical transcription
- ASEAN Network for Drugs, Diagnostics, Vaccines and Traditional Medicines Innovation (ASEAN-NDI) hosted by the Philippines
- Research and development on infectious or communicable diseases and tropical diseases
- Highly-skilled workers and researchers
- Information technology
- Natural resources and biodiversity
- Government and private sector support
Keeping these in mind, Cruz told health professionals that the health sector will play a great role in the future of ASEAN. (READ: PH ‘well situated’ to take advantage of ASEAN integration)
“The future of ASEAN, the way I see it, is to bring a greater quality of life for our people through sustainable growth and development,” he added. – Rappler.com
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