Colmenares: ASEAN integration will ‘cripple’ local economy

Mara Cepeda
Colmenares: ASEAN integration will ‘cripple’ local economy

Alecs Ongcal

For example, because Filipino farmers have to pay irrigation fee, they are forced to put a higher price on their harvests compared to countries like Thailand

MANILA, Philippines – Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said on Wednesday, January 20, that the ASEAN integration, which started last December, will be detrimental to local industries in the Philippines.

“Ang ASEAN integration, para sa akin, not only are we not prepared [for it], that is not the right economic strategy! The moment you allow entry of foreign products dito sa Pilipinas, lulumpuhin ang lokal na negosyo at industriya,” said Colmenares during Rappler’s #TheLeaderIWant Forum at the De La Salle University.

(For me, we’re not only unprepared for the ASEAN integration, it is not the right economic strategy! The moment you allow entry of foreign products into the Philippines, the local businesses and industries will be crippled.)

Colmenares explained that because Filipino farmers are required to pay irrigation fee, they are forced to put a higher price on their harvests compared to countries like Thailand that export rice into the Philippines. (READ: Neighbors catching up on PH as ASEAN integration looms)

Pagdating ng bigas ng Thailand, mura sila. O ‘di lugi ang lokal na farmers?” said the 3-term congressman, who is running for senator under the tandem of Grace Poe and Francis Escudero. (When the rice from Thailand gets here, the price is cheaper. Local farmers are on the losing end.)

While Colmenares still supports the country participating in international trade and foreign investment, he said the primary focus of the government should still be local development and job generation. (READ: What will sustain PH momentum come ASEAN integration?)

The main engine of growth [should be] ibuhos ang kapital at suporta ng gobyerno sa lokal na negosyo at industriya. ‘Yan dapat ang main economic strategy at tingin ko ‘pag nagawa natin ‘yan, diyan uunlad ang Pilipinas, when we begin producing what we need,” he said.

(The main engine of growth should be focused on the goverment allotting its support and capital for local businesses and industries. That should be the economic strategy. I think that if we successfully do that, the Philippines would improve, especially when we begin producing what we need.)

“I dream of the day when we can produce our own electric fan,” added Colmenares, who was among the 3 senatorial candidates in the forum along with lawyer Lorna Kapunan and Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez.

Public utilities also a problem

Kapunan, who is also running under the Poe-Escudero ticket, agrees that more jobs should be generated for Filipinos in the country to help end poverty.

She said, however, that the country is not only facing the problem of dire employment but also that of faulty public utilities. 

“We are the only country that public utilities have been privatized. Why? Because the government says hindi natin kaya, wala kaming expertise, wala kaming technical knowledge. Ibigay na natin sa private sector (Because the government says they can’t do it. They don’t have the expertise or the technical knowledge. Let’s just give it to the public sector),” said Kapunan.

She added that the private sector cannot be blamed when the bottomline is profit. “That’s their job! It is what it is,” she said.

“So industrialization is the key. You start with basic industries. Food. We should be self-sustaining in food,” added Kapunan, who is pushing for a review of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.