Ellen Tordesillas

Will PH be ready for Asean 2015 when we can’t do simple things right

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What I’m relating is not a life-and-death matter but it shows why we are lagging behind with some of our Southeast Asian neighbors.

 

When the Jetstar plane I took from Singapore touched down at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport about 10 in the morning yesterday, I realized I haven’t filled up the Immigration and Customs Declaration forms that are usually distributed on the plane. I asked fellow passengers if the flight stewardess had distributed the forms while many of us were asleep and they replied, “None.”

When we got to the area before the Immigration Counter, we were told the forms were on the stands on both side of the room occupied by passengers dutifully filling up the form.

We asked for the Customs Declaration forms that usually go with the Immigration Forms. The lady in the Assistance Counter told us to get them at the Customs area.

While we were retrieving our luggage from the carousel, a guy was going around distributing the Customs Declaration form. We asked him why they were not placed in the Immigration Counter so we could have filled them up when we were accomplishing the Immigration forms.

The Customs guy said, “I don’t know. I was just told to distribute this to you here.”

Thank you.

We surrendered the accomplished from to the Customs officer. In my case, I passed through the “Nothing to Declare” counter. I asked the Customs officer collecting the accomplished Declaration forms, why were the documents not distributed in the plane and he said it was Jetstar’s responsibility.

So, okay, Jetstar failed to do that. But why was it not distributed together with the Immigration Card so we could have accomplished them together, which would have facilitated our exit. And why are these forms so scarce. In other airports, you see these forms aplenty at the counter. The officer said, “I don’t know.”

Just a minor, simple matter and we can’t do it right.

I’m not sure if this inefficiency can fall under what economic experts call non-tariff barriers. But I know this is the kind of situation that explains why visitors do not come out of our airports impressed. If you replicate that kind of situation in other offices, conducting business in the Philippines becomes a stressful experience.

The workshop I attended in Singapore was about Asean 2015, when the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, would be integrated as a single market, an Economic Community, something like, but not exactly like the European Union.

Part of Asean’s vision, when it was founded in 1967, was “to establish a firm foundation for common action to promote regional cooperation in South-East Asia in the spirit of equality and partnership and thereby contribute towards peace, progress and prosperity in the region.”

From a group of five -Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, the membership has grown to 10 including Brunei, Cambodia,Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam and accounting for over a billion people.

Towards attaining that vision of ASEAN that is peaceful, progressive and prosperous, member countries set a target for an ASEAN Economic Community , inspired by the EU, by 2015.

An Asean Economic Community would have the following characteristics: single market and production base; highly competitive economic region; equitable development; and fully integrated into the global community.

A single market base would necessitate free flow of goods, services, investments, capital, and skilled labor.

Member countries have made significant strides in this area ( a good example is visa- free travel within the ASEAN countries except Myanmar). More need still to be done.

 

In the Philippines, we have to remind ourselves that doing simple things right matter a lot.

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