Campus tour at Laguna State Polytechnic University

13 January 2016

To the officers and members of the LSPU Mechanical Engineering Society,

Engr. Joseph Cabiente, Dean of the College of Engineering, and the administrators and staff of LSPU,

To the engineering students and all the other students of Laguna Polytechnic State University,

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning to all of you!

Thank you for having invited me to be part of the Engineering Seminar and Forum of LSPU, where you have assigned me to speak about this very complicated topic of the ASEAN integration.

But anyway, here is my take on it. To get the ball rolling, this so-called ASEAN Integration has set important targets and milestones for us as part of our international obligations as member of the ASEAN. The “deadline” was supposed to be by the end of 2015, but this was recently “extended” to 2025. And to give an idea as to how we are doing so far, according to our ASEAN scorecard, our grade is 87%, very much similar to a “B minus” in school.

Sa tunog pa lamang ng ating grado, kumbaga sa buhay-estudyante, parang kandidato na tayo sa “Dean’s List”. Sabi ng pamahalaan, tayo raw ay handa na. Ngunit may ilan ding nagsasabi na hindi naman daw talaga tayo handa pa para rito.

Pero ano ba talaga itong "ASEAN Integration"? Ano ba ang pakinabang nito sa masang Pilipino?

In essence, it calls for the creation of an "ASEAN Economic Community", which will effectively transform the ASEAN region into: 1) a single market and production base; 2) a highly competitive economic region; 3) a region of equitable economic development; and 4) a region fully integrated into the global economy.

Sa mas maka-masang paliwanag, isipin natin na ang ASEAN ay isang barkada na magkakabitbahay sa isang subdivision—sabihin na lang natin, halimbawa, dito sa Barangay Bubukal. Ang barkadang ito ay nagsimula lamang sa paglalaro ng holen, taguan at patintero noong sila ay malilit pa, ngunit hanggang sila’y tumanda at nagkaroon na ng kani-kanilang mga pamilya, sila ay nanatiling magkakapitbahay at magkakabarkada.

Ngayon, ihalintulad natin ang ideya ng ASEAN Economic Community sa magkakapitbahay at magkakabarkada na ito. Ngayon, sila ay nagdesisyong magsama-sama at magsanib-pwersa upang makapagtayo ng isang negosyo—

O, Coco, ikaw ang bahala sa security at kaayusan.

John Lloyd at Piolo, kayo ang bahala sa sales.

Alden, tutal ikaw ang pinakapogi at magaling sa PR, ikaw ang bahala sa marketing at customer relations.

At Maine, ikaw ang magkahera at magkuwenta ng mga gastusin natin!

Ngayon, hindi na lamang sila magkakapitbahay at magkakaibigan. Magkaka-sosyo na sila sa isang negosyo. Sama-sama at sabay-sabay silang sasabak sa pandaigdigang merkado!

The “integration” envisions the ASEAN to become one economic region wherein the relations among its members will be characterized by a "free flow of capital and investments, free flow of goods, free flow of services and skilled labor".

However, this integration and creation of a single economic community will NOT be easy or automatic, and neither will it a simple thing to do. The economy of any one country is already complex and mysterious as it is; imagine now the myriad complexity and mystery of the combination and commingling of the economies of 10 countries! In fact, I read somewhere that business mogul Manny V. Pangilinan has remarked that complete ASEAN integration would not happen instantaneously, and certainly “not in our lifetime”. Yes, the economic integration among the countries of the ASEAN region is really that complex and tedious.

Just imagine how the European Union (EU) came to be. It has taken them more than half a century, several treaties and name changes, and countless crises and challenges to get to the point where they are now. But today, they are still standing as a force to be reckoned with, strong and stable as ever, with 28 member-states and counting.

Aside from the strong external political will that has made possible the forging of international agreements and concessions among the ASEAN members, a continuing political will of all the relevant sectors within the individual ASEAN countries is necessary and essential.

For one, particular laws, rules, policies, institutions and mechanisms of the individual ASEAN members should be attuned and reengineered in accordance with the integration plan.

Kaya nga po ngayon, naririnig natin ang mga usapin tungkol sa pag-amyenda sa mga sinasabing "economic provisions" ng ating Saligang Batas, upang gawin itong mas bukas para sa mga dayuhan sa ilang partikular na mga industriya at gawain.

On the matter of facilitating a freer transfer of skilled labor, mutual recognition agreements or MRAs have been signed by the ASEAN members with regard to eight (8) professional services already, namely: medical, dental and nursing, accountancy, engineering, architecture, surveying, and tourism professionals.

However, aside from these structural changes, of course, all our preparations will also necessarily require a corresponding paradigm shift in the mindset and perception of the citizenry, as components of the Philippine economy to be subsumed eventually in this bigger ASEAN Economic Community.

Hence, according to the ASEAN Blueprint, we should now be more "open", "outward-looking", and "market-driven" in our thinking and in our approach. Kung dati ay "pang-lokal" lamang ang ating pag-iisip, ngayon "international” na dapat. Kung dati ang alam natin ay mga Pinoy lamang ang nagiging OFWs, ngayon, asahan natin na magkakaroon na rin ng mga dayuhan mula sa mga ASEAN na bansa na magdaratingan dito sa Pilipinas upang magtrabaho at magtayo ng mga negosyo.

At dito pumapasok ang mahalagang papel na gagampanan ng ating sektor ng edukasyon—ng ating mga paaralan, ng ating mga guro, at lalung-lalo na, ng ating mga mag-aaral.

The academe plays a vital role in this whole capacity-building and strengthening exercises for the ASEAN Integration. The education sector is like a factory that churns out the creative minds and the warm bodies to our economy for its effective and gainful operation. It will also be crucial and instrumental in triggering this wave of change in the perception amongst our people, beginning with those nurtured within the four walls of the classroom: our studentry.

According to Prof. Melito Salazar of the Centro Escolar University:

"The change will only come about if Philippine business, government and the academe work together not only to bring about this change of mindset but also to enhance the skills and competencies of Philippine human resources so we can better compete in the era of ASEAN integration."

Prof. Salazar hit the nail on the head when he confirmed the symbiotic roles to be played by the triumvirate in our economy: government, industry, and the academe, in beefing up the skills and competencies of our Filipino human resources.

To reiterate, the mechanical engineering profession is one of the “regionalized” professions. You should prepare for the foreign competition that will be coming from our ASEAN neighbors, in the same way that you should prepare your skills set to be qualified for “exportation” to another ASEAN country in the future.

According to your programme for today, you were supposed to have been oriented with regard to the “perks and perils” of working abroad and here at home. Indeed, we really should be prepared to face not only the “perks” but also the “perils” that ASEAN integration portends for our country.

Alongside the opportunities offered by the opening of the borders of our ASEAN neighbors to migrating professionals, we should likewise assess the impact of the possibility of the reverse phenomenon.

Will our local engineers and professionals be able to stand toe-to-toe with their foreign counterparts with equal, if not better, qualifications and credentials? Will there be a possibility of bias and favoritism in favor of foreign applicants, and discrimination against local and homegrown applicants?

Hence, our education sector should ever be mindful to attune the standards of our Philippine engineering education to global standards, in an attempt to achieve “substantial equivalence” of our programs with those of, and mutual recognition of our professional qualifications by, developed countries.

For example, this “Washington Accord” of the International Engineering Alliance (IEA) that we are working so hard for to become part of. If we become a regular member of this international agreement, our professional engineers who shall be licensed by the PRC shall also automatically be authorized to practice in other members-States, since our engineering programs and accreditation process would then be recognized as “substantially equivalent” of those of the other members-States.

Right now, we are on “provisional status” since 2013. According to the Philippine Technological Council (PTC), we have a period of four (4) years, plus an extension of two (2) years, within which to comply with the requirements to become a regular member of the Washington Accord. Moreover, our application is on the right track, and our chances are “high”. Hence, traces of the sweet smell of success are in the air. Soon, the Filipino engineering program, the FIlipino engineering graduate, and the Filipino licensed professional engineer will all finally become “globally recognized” and deemed qualified for global competition.

Likewise, the industrial sector should be reinvigorated and revitalized. Government should be a good and visionary steward that will steer and guide the country with meaningful economic policies that will encourage the private sector to invest and put up productive and sustainable plants and factories that will keep our economy ever vibrant and robust, which in turn will provide for the employment opportunities to our engineering and industrial professionals.

The mechanical engineers are the ones who will stand as the ethical vanguards and operators of the formidable machines whirring and purring within the fortresses of our industries.

The functions and responsibilities of the mechanical engineer in the industry and in society have stably evolved over the years. The mechanical engineer’s indispensable role and continued relevance in society, and more so his or her economic potential, are already assured and safely guaranteed under our presenrt set-up.

And so amid the promises and threats of the ASEAN integration, the role, the competitiveness and the rightful place of the Filipino mechanical engineer—and the rest of the Filipino professionals, for that matter—in the national and the entire ASEAN landscape, should be preserved and protected.

The huge volume of our Filipino labor resource should be directed and shepherded to the right path. Dapat mayroong nakaabang na trabaho kung saan mang dako para sa kanila—trabahong may dangal, magandang kita at may seguridad.

Everybody will have distinct roles to play in this Herculean exercise. And true to this segment’s theme, all of us will have to “meet halfway” somewhere at our agreed point.

Aayusin ng gobyerno ang ekonomiya ng bansa at ikakasa sa ASEAN integration. Ang pribadong sektor ang magbubukas ng mga kumpanya, mga planta at mga industriya. At kayo, bilang mga engineering students, mag-aaral kayong mabuti at ipapasa ninyo ang inyong Board Exams! Babantayan kayo ng inyong eskuwelahan at mga guro upang matupad ninyo ito.

Likewise, in return, as future mechanical engineers, all of you will swear by the Oath of your profession, to “honor and respect the supreme authority of the State, the Rule of Law, the primacy of the general welfare, the fundamental rights of persons, and the obligations and privileges of citizens recognized and guaranteed by the Constitution of the Philippines.”

At isingit na rin natin ito…

To borrow the words of our true and authentic Miss Universe, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach:
“Show to the world—the ASEAN, rather—that you are confidently beautiful with a heart.”

“MAY PUSO”. Compassionate. Ito na siguro ang pinakamahalagang kalidad na magbubukod sa atin sa iba pang mga dalubhasa sa ASEAN at sa buong mundo. Ipakita at patunayan natin ito sa buong mundo!

On my part, as elected representative of the Filipino people, it has been my guiding principle and primordial duty to make sure that government is able to lay the building blocks to enable our people to achieve the better and more fulfilling lives they aspire for. Buhay na mapayapa. Buhay na matiwasay. Buhay na nakaluluwag. Most especially for the students who are only starting to build on their dreams and ambitions here within the halls of the schools, and also for our unsung heroes—the teachers—who shepherd and inspire the students towards the fulfillment and concretization of their dreams and ambitions.

Makakaasa po kayo diyan. Iyan po ang aking dakilang hangarin sa aking paninilbihan sa Senado. Makakaasa po kayo na ito pa rin ay aking IPAGPAPATULOY—siyempre po, sa pamamagitan ng inyong taos-pusong tiwala at walang-sawang pagsuporta sa akin.

Hanggang sa atin pong muling pagkikita sa mga darating na buwan! ‘Ika nga po: SA “TAMANG PANAHON”! Kayo na po ang bahala sa akin!

So once again, thank you for your invitation, and I hope that everyone had a very meaningful, thought-provoking and productive symposium this morning!

Mabuhay ang mga mag-aaral, mga guro at ang buong pamilya ng Laguna State Polytechnic University!

Mabuhay ang mga inhinyerong mekanikal sa buong bansa!

Maraming salamat po at pagpalain kayong lahat ng Maykapal!