Exporters and private companies should boost their productivity to take advantage of the looming ASEAN economic integration in 2015, an economist said.

“This is a huge market we are talking about,” said Dr. Rafaelita Aldaba, a senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, in a forum on regional economic integration.

The planned ASEAN economic community will mean a big market of approximately 590 million people.

“[Companies] have to continue upgrading their production systems. They have to be more productive and try to link up with other companies,” said Aldaba.

The economist also said that the Philippines could attract more foreign investments by improving its operational environment and business climate.

Aldaba said this can be done through close coordination with national agencies and local government units to automate and streamline business procedures, implement clear and consistent policies, promote investments, and provide assistance to investors.

The investment promotion and facilitation efforts of the country’s investment promotion agencies (IPAs) should also be under one agency, she said.

“There is a need to synchronize efforts in promotion and image-building activities, providing investor aftercare service and implementing the country’s investment plan,” said Aldaba.

Currently, there are 12 investment promotion agencies in the country, the biggest two of which are the Board of Investments and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

The other IPAs are the Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority, the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, Clark Development Corp., the Philippine Retirement Authority, Phividec Industrial Authority, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, the Regional Board of Investment-ARMM, and the Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority and Freeport. — BM, GMA News