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Full ASEAN integration seen stalled by restrictions on investments, services

The Philippines, along with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, are facing rough roads on the harmonization of rules on investments and services sectors for the region’s full economic integration by 2015.

Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory L. Domingo admitted this situation as ASEAN Economic Ministers are meeting in Singapore this week for their scheduled annual retreat.

Domingo, who was scheduled to leave yesterday for Singapore, told reporters after the Philippines-United Arab Emirates Business Forum that the ministers are going to discuss the Asean Economic Community AEC 2015.

He said that ASEAN ministers may discuss on how to move especially on rules on investments and services sectors.” There are difficult areas, like services because there are some limitations especially on the financial sector,” said Domingo.

The Philippines alone has some Constitutional and legal restrictions on 50 areas out of 150 on services and investment sectors,” he said.

Thus, he said, there is a need to pass some laws to correct some restrictive policies.

“But the Philippines is not unique, we’re not the only one faced with limitations. There are others who are also facing their own,” he said.

Aside from the concerns on investments and services, the ministers are also expected to discuss the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation.

Meanwhile, Domingo, who is also part of President Aquino’s state visit to Malaysia starting this Thursday, said the main interest would be on palm oil production. Malaysia is a big palm oil producer.

“There are also other big possibilities there like food processing, it could be some investments for sharia bank, in some manufacturing,” he said.

He said that once the peace process in Mindanao, he expects to see more Malaysia investments in the south. Malaysia is the facilitator in the ongoing peace process in Mindanao.

“Once there is peace in Mindanao, I’ve no doubt economic growth in Mindanao will be faster,” he said.