The Philippines has the capacity to lead the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) integration effort given its success in uniting a diverse population, a former Malaysian head of state said.
“I think the Philippines has the potential for leading the integration because it had experience with regard to running a country that is very big–over 100 million people of diverse races, tribes, etc. living on islands,” former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed said in a briefing at the sidelines of a Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex) conference in Makati City on Friday.
Mahathir said the Philippines, as Asean chair for this year, should show how it was keeping the archipelago together.
“This is an opportunity for the Philippines to exhibit some of your successes in this field — that you can stay as a nation amid the diversity of your population,” he said.
“The tendency now is to break away but if you have the capacity and understanding that you belong to one country, I think you can provide models for other nations.”
Meanwhile, Mahathir said regional integration could be fast-tracked through the use of new technologies, particularly in communications.
“New technologies could be a great contributor to integration because, for instance, now you can talk to each other without being separated by space or time,” he said.
“For example, business through Internet is growing very fast. Even people in the villages can now market their products throughout the region and throughout the world. Even small businesses suddenly become very big if you learn to make use of good communication and the Internet,” he added.
Asean member-states are currently pursuing regulatory reforms to further build the Asean Economic Community, which was established in 2015.