Our youth accepts the Asean challenge

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GIL H. A. SANTOS

IT is very encouraging that our Filipino youth has taken the initiative—the lead—in getting their contemporaries in the whole Asean 10 to prepare for their national and collective leadership in the next decades and work for the regional integration.

Today (November 27), eight major Philippine youth and young professionals organizations—and representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand—are opening a three-day Asean Youth Engagement Summit 2017 (AYES 2017) in the Lyceum of the Philippines (Intramuros campus).

These are the Rotaract Club of Pilipinas Youth, the Asean University Student Council Union, student leaders of the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), the Ateneo de Manila University, University of Santo Tomas, the University of the Philippines, I AM SAM Foundation and the UST Alumni Association, Inc.

Their objective: to expand the young Aseans’ network, utilize their knowledge, and create a positive impact while having a deeper understanding about: environment and sustainability, humanitarian affairs, governance and diplomacy, business affairs and grade, and health and social policy.


In short, to support the total Asean integration, and prepare the young generations of the region for the next decades to inherit their national—and collective regional—leaderships to attain the founding fathers’ vision-mission half a century ago: to render the Southeast Asian region into an area of “peace, amity and friendship.”

Their initiative deserves total regional support, considering the dynamics of this globalization era; and the job ahead of these millennials is herculean. It will take generations or at least (probably) 60 years to a century to attain, when we take into account the diversified cultures influenced and molded by different colonial masters.

The French colonized Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (French Indochina), the Dutch were in Indonesia, the British were in Myanmar (Burma), Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, the Spanish were in the Philippines, succeeded by the Americans (and Japanese briefly during the last world war). Thailand is the only Asean member which escaped foreign colonial occupation through diplomacy and deception.

This interaction between sovereign states called globalization has put our present world on the fast lane of our planet’s road to progress. International competition for economic gains is influenced by the quantum advances of information and communication technologies, of science and production, artificial intelligence (otherwise known as robotics) climate changes and natural calamities and geopolitics/geo-economics hegemony or influences—foreign political-economic-socio-cultural contamination if you wish.

The Asean youth today can look forward to their needs in the next quarter of a century. They will need excellent communicators who can simplify the complex language and terminologies of science and the information/communication industries. They need to explain to the rural folks of the 650 million Asean populations (and still growing) why they must accept entrepreneurship and new production techniques to improve their lives.

They must propagate to the region’s general publics the importance of integration, the awareness of regional unity for global competition. They must empower their national leaderships to acquire the absolute political will for closest cooperation among the Asean 10.

They can apply the SWOT analysis formula for a starter.

For strength, the region has the minerals the industrialized countries need to keep their manufacturing plants grinding day and night which will keep the supply chain (and consumer spending) in perpetual motion. We have the fortune of a tropical geographical location where the Coral Triangle is. The Philippines is the apex, with a base extending from Indonesia’s Sumatra island in the west down to Papua New Guinea to the east.

But this Coral Triangle has almost 25 percent of the world’s biodiversity, giving us the capacity to supply more than a third of the earth’s population with food from our agriculture and marine resources.

Our population is mostly young and potential supplier of health care services in the aging industrialized countries.

Weaknesses can be attributed to the underdeveloped economies of the Asean 10, which also accounts for the wide disparity between the rich and the poor, thus the problem of extreme poverty. The lack of, or inferior quality of infrastructure is another weakness. Corruption and weak governance due to personal and transactional politics are common to the Asean 10 with a few exceptions.

For opportunities, we have the current competition between China and Russia on one hand, and the US and its allies, including the European Union, on the other. The offers of financial and technical aid to the Asean members by both sides is one chance our leaders must not miss—and the young professionals must never miss.

The Chinese offer to build a railroad network connecting China with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa is the answer to boost economic progress.

The development of the Russian, European, Central Asian and African markets for Asean agri-marine products and for manufactured food and medicine is another opportunity that must not escape our future leaders. The secret is to be alert for any new bit of market information for Asean products.

Innovations and chances for inclusive growth are windows for economic improvement which need to be monitored very closely by all future Asean leaders.

For Threats, there is always probability of a shooting war in the Northeast Asian region, considering the oral threats—and actual rocket test-firings by North Korea into the Pacific Ocean. It will be suicidal to be caught unprepared and without options to survive—granting the Asean 10 can—a shooting war between Pyongyang and Washington.

This threat to Asean can easily be allayed if China and Russia which helped North Korea with manpower and war materiel during the Korean War which ended in a truce in 1954, did something. Another threat is the growing worldwide terrorism as the Islamic State continues to suffer loses in the Middle East. This is directly connected with the just ended Marawi siege from May this year. Another is separatism fired up by socio-economic inequalities between the rich and the poor.

Both aforementioned threats, in addition to illegal drugs and drug addiction, had been addressed by the 31st Asean summitry which ended here recently. Our millennials can pick up the lessons from there.

Climate change and natural disasters remain to be threats, man-made or otherwise. Corruption and personal and transactional political practices are both a threat and weakness anywhere. It must be addressed with the strongest political will that Asean leaders can whip up from the ranks.

Cyberspace crimes are the newest of these risks the region faces.

The young Aseans must be equipped with the capacity to peek into their future by a thorough knowledge of their histories to understand what and why we are in such a state of development today, and be empowered with the capacity to analyze current facts and data to peek into our future.

The Center for Philippine Futuristics Studies and Management and the Lyceum of the Philippines University can assist in this aspect. They are just a phone call away.

Comments and reactions to gilsmanilatimes@yahoo.com

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