The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) commemorated its 50th anniversary this month through simultaneous celebrations across the regional bloc’s 10 member states.
With the Philippines as this year’s Asean chair, 50 key cities and municipalities in the country joined the golden jubilee festivities. The kickoff event was the unveiling of a tribute painting for the Asean’s founding fathers at the Philippine International Convention Center during the opening ceremony of the 50th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
In Kuala Lumpur, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told the Asean@50 Conference: “2017 marks an opportune time to reflect on what the Asean has achieved over the past five decades and what is seeks to accomplish ahead.”
He said the region should focus on communication and collaboration so that economic opportunities will be equally felt by all Asean citizens, emphasizing that “our communication must be sustained and intensified if we want to reap the benefits of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), working toward a deeper regional integration in 2025.”
According to Lopez, cooperation and complementation are at the heart of Asean integration efforts, while the AEC reflects connectedness as the region’s diversity becomes a source of attraction to global investors.
If taken as a single economy, the Asean is now the fifth largest in the world after the United States, the European Union (EU), China, and Japan. Having a combined population of 630 million and gross domestic product of $2.4 trillion, it is considered the most successful regional grouping next to the EU.
Kavi Chongkittavorn of Thailand commented in the Nikkei Asian Review that in order for the Asean to stay relevant over the next half-century, its leaders must develop a unified and coherent strategy. He made an observation that “in the past, Asean leaders could get away with hedging their responses to emerging issues and pressures from outside powers.”
Meanwhile, the Asean Center for Biodiversity (ACB) based in the University of the Philippines at Los Banos in Laguna warned: “The region is poised to lose 70-90 percent of habitats and 13-42 percent of species by 2100.”
ACB’s latest outlook warned that our biological diversity would greatly be eroded by the end of this century if the destruction of the environment continues unabated, noting that the Asean is home to the “mega-diverse countries of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.”
Given these scenarios, what’s in store for the Asean in 2067? Will it become a world economic power by the time of its centennial year?
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Changing lives through mass housing
8990 Holdings Inc. President and CEO Januario Jesus B. Atencio 3rd stunned his audience at last month’s annual stockholders meeting by announcing that he will retire in December this year. In 2003, he co-founded the flagship firm called 8990 Housing Development Corporation, together with Chairman Emeritus Luis N. Yu, Jr. and Chairman of the Board Mariano D. Martinez, Jr.
Atencio subsequently issued a clarification regarding some reports about his retirement that seemed to convey the idea that 8990’s success is his legacy alone and that he is solely responsible for turning 8990 into one of the nation’s leading mass housing companies.
“The statement is rather embarrassing for me. The success is not just mine but a collaborative effort, with the leadership and guidance of my business partners Luis Yu and Mariano Martinez, as well as the executives and staff all through these years,” he clarified. His likely successor is current COO Willibardo Uy, who joined the company in 2015 after retiring as president of Phinma Property Holdings Corporation.
Young adults between the ages of 20 and 35 accounted for more than half of 8990’s total sales in recent years. Atencio believes that residential units costing P450,000 to P1.4 million are within the reach of millennials who live and work in Metro Manila.
Such a price range is comparable to that of a good second-hand car nowadays. Should the buyer require financing, the monthly amortization would be equivalent to two cups of gourmet coffee drinks per day.
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Still on the housing sector, kudos to Habitat for Humanity Philippines on its successful staging of the 6th Asia-Pacific Housing Forum (APHF) at Novotel Manila Hotel in Quezon City.
APHF has brought together more than 3,000 participants from 52 countries since its launch in 2007. A new track on “Technology for Affordable Housing” was introduced this year, featuring cutting-edge technologies that could be used for increased access to decent housing.
Affordable housing is, indeed, a key factor in various global initiatives, including the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals; the New Urban Agenda of the UN’s Habitat Conference III; and the resilience plans of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The author, J. Albert Gamboa, is chief financial officer of the Asian Center for Legal Excellence and serves as co-chairman of the FINEX Media Affairs Committee.