CAGAYAN DE ORO — Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic integration would present the Philippins with an opportunity to expand its market share in the world economy and open market opportunities in the economic bloc, business leaders in this city were told Thursday during a conference.

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Businessmen were told how the planned ASEAN economic integration that could take place three years from now would affect on their operations.

“We would like to see the impact of a single (regional) market to our businesses in 2015 ASEAN integration,” Ma. Teresa R. Alegrio, president of the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Oro Chamber) told BusinessWorld. Rodolfo L. Meñez, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) governor for Northern Mindanao, said everybody in the business community should understand the importance of the ASEAN integration.

Ryan Patrick G. Evangelista, PCCI deputy secretary-general, presented issues that focused mainly on the positive aspect of the economic integration objective. “ASEAN gives us the opportunity to expand our market share to the world and this integration will facilitate lower tariffs of products from the member countries, opening market opportunities in the 600 million-strong economic bloc,” he said.

The initiative, he added, envisions four key characteristics; a single market and production base, a highly competitive region, equitable economic development, and fully integrated region in the global economy.

“If the ASEAN were a single entity, it would rank as the 9th largest economy in the world,” he said, pointing out the need for business leaders to push for equitable development noting that local small and medium enterprises are not comparable with those of neighboring countries, particularly Singapore.

Leon M. Dacanay, Northern Mindanao director of the National Economic and Development Authority, said the country has a “waning industry” and suffers from low productivity compared with neighboring countries.

Citing data from the 2012 World Bank’s study on doing business, he said the Philippines ranked 136th among 183 economies examined, down by two places from 2011.

However, Mr. Dacanay noted that Northern Mindanao has good potential for investments because of its strategic location, its rich agricultural and natural resources, huge potential for industry development, and stable peace and order situation.

With the impending opening of the Laguindingan airport, about 40 kilometers west of this city, Mr. Dacanay is expecting a new metropolitan area to spring up in Mindanao. The airport is located between this city and the city of Iligan, within the region’s industrial belt. — Rochie Lou A. Embodo, Businessworld