Bohol is etching history in global policy-making when it hosts starting today a series of major meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that will expand the country’s market access to half of the world’s population.
The Inter-Sessional ASEAN Caucus Meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) will run at the Hennan Resort on the prime resort island of Panglao until Friday.
The lead negotiators convene to finalize the ASEAN position on outstanding issues and develop a pathway toward the conclusion of negotiations by year-end.
The delegates are led by the ministers and senior officials from the 10 ASEAN members, which are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the host country, the Philippines.
This year’s chairmanship of the ASEAN has been entrusted to the Philippines under Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine agency sponsoring the Bohol meetings is the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Not just among the ASEAN members, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations also involve Australia, China, Japan, India, South Korea and New Zealand.
The 16-party negotiations during the Bohol ASEAN meetings, which have some 200 delegates, are targeted to be concluded within the year.
Once completed, it will be the Philippines’ biggest FTA, linking the country and bringing the Philippine businesses improved market access to half of the world’s population.
The lead negotiators at the ASEAN meetings in Bohol consist of ASEAN Secretariat Director Julia Tijaja; First Secretary Yusdiman Saman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Brunei Darussalam; Deputy Director General of International Trade Tan Yuvaroath, Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia; Director Donna Gultom, Ministry of Trade, Indonesia; Director General Laohua Cheutching, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Laos; Deputy Secretary General for Trade Isham Ishak, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia; Director Tin Aye Han, Directorate on Investment and Company Administration, Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, Myanmar; Director Sulaimah Mahmood, ASEAN Division, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore; Director of ASEAN Affairs Bureau Chotima Iemsawasdikul, Department of Trade Negotiations, Thailand; Director General Iman Pambagyo, International Trade Cooperation, Ministry of Trade Negotiations, who is also the ASEAN Trade Negotiations Committee Chair; Director Cuong Ba Tran, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Vietnam; and Assistant Secretary Anna Maria Rosario Diaz Robeniol, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippines.
Amb. Marciano Paynor, Jr., presidential protocol officer and head of the National Organizing Council (NOC) for the ASEAN Summit 2017, commended the preparation of Bohol under Gov. Edgar Chatto for the meetings that will redefine not just the fate of the ASEAN but Asia-Pacific Region.
The Bohol meetings have over 200 ASEAN delegates, according to Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Catalino Cuy, who saw the governor as soon as he arrived here yesterday.
During their embassy briefing in Manila on Monday, no ASEAN delegate raised the Inabanga incident which could mean the issue has not affected them and they are more excited to experience Bohol’s beauty and its people’s charm, according to Cuy.
The new DILG Secretary said he was asked by Paynor to relay to Chatto the ASEAN-NOC head’s commendation of the governor’s leadership of Bohol.
The delegations from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines already arrived yesterday.
Chatto will lead the Bohol government in tendering a welcome dinner for the ASEAN delegates and invited guests tomorrowevening.
Bohol is also privileged to promote tourism and investment during the ASEAN event, which resulting trade, industry and other economic policies are to strengthen the ASEAN as a global economic player—and essential to the development and growth of the localities of its member states.
There are few other select areas in the country for the different major ASEAN meetings, which are all integral to the Philippine hosting of the ASEAN 2017 Summit that will culminate in the final quarter this year.
Chatto is optimistic that Bohol will do gain being one of the venues of the ASEAN meetings, which essence and impact on the local economic growth and development can be immeasurable.
Further, Bohol is securing a glowing page in the history of ASEAN as the league of 10 nations marks this year its golden founding anniversary.