What to Expect from the Upcoming ASEAN 100 Leadership Forum

Posted in News | Posted on 22-08-2011

By MITZI DUQUE RUIZ
August 22, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is a country of great promise. This country could be the next Asian Tiger.”

With this positive note as his basis, leading Brunei businessman Dato Timothy Ong aims to help bring the first of two issues he had been pondering for some time to the focus of some of the Southeast Asian next-generation leaders.

This business leader was chairman of the APEC Business Advisory Council in 2000, served as chairman of the Brunei Economic Development Board, Brunei’s lead economic agency, from 2001 to 2010, sits on a number of local and regional boards, and has been a recipient of a number of state honors, including the Most Honorable Order of Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei, which earned him the title “Dato Paduka.”

Dato Ong is also founder and chairman of Asia Inc Forum, a leading facilitator of high-level business dialogue within Asia and beyond, and the organizer of the annual ASEAN 100 Leadership Forum. Now on its 8th year, the ASEAN 100 brings together ambitious high-flying men and women representing business, civil society, politics, and some from government—“but we try not to have so many,” says Ong—from across the region, who have made or are projected to continue to make a positive impact in their countries and in Asia.

Each year, the gathering of by-invitation only participants—ASEAN’s next generation leaders—comes together to network, build relationships, and learn from each other and from top leaders. They meet to get a better understanding of key opportunities and what to watch out for, participate in discussions to shape the priorities for trade and investment, and to find out how key events around the world are impacting ASEAN. “Each year, the VIPs continue to come,” Ong adds, encouraged by the show of genuine interest in sharing ideas and fostering insightful and intelligent discussions on the future of ASEAN.

Straight from the Minds of Today’s or Tomorrow’s Leaders

“Our past speakers include Asians who are now leaders of their respective countries,” Dato Ong shares, “and those who continue to make huge contributions from their own respective industries.”

Among those he mentioned were the Philippines’ own Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and former Senator and VP candidate and now DOTC Head Mar Roxas, who have been invited to speak and are, in fact, invited every year. “Secretary Purisima was first invited to the Forum in 2004 while still with the SGV, and look where he is now,” Ong adds, to illustrate how the concept of future leadership most often falls into place through time.

There have been speakers who have begun as civic or corporate beacons, who are now leaders of nations. And, of course, there have also been those who were once projected to be great leaders in a matter of years, but whose ascent seemed to prove challenging. “We are not preoccupied with current positions because we realize life is unpredictable and change is inevitable. What is important is the contribution these leaders have made and continue to make to our region,” stresses Dato Ong, “and the idea of bringing together people who don’t normally get together and speak comfortably in one venue, for barely 24 hours, to discuss matters that are of importance to everyone.”

Is PNoy ‘The One’ to Lead us to Becoming the Next Asian Tiger?

This year’s Forum, on the 28th and 29th of September at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel, will begin with an address from Guest of Honor President Noynoy Aquino, whom the participants will also get to engage with in a dialogue. This is the first time for the President to be invited to participate in ASEAN 100. Perhaps a leader whose light did not shine till recently, he is nonetheless the best person to speak on the issue of the Philippines’ readiness to be the next Asian Tiger, and if he is ready to lead the country toward that goal.

Through this year’s forum, he is hoping to help introduce the Philippines and its current leadership. “This is a great time for that. A new government brings a promise of a new beginning. Right now we are working to convince participants to come here in spite of the negative publicity, and the first step is to bring them here,” says Ong. The hope for this frequent Philippine visitor is to be able to make other people see what he sees in the Philippines.

“The Philippines has this potential to become a great nation. It has companies strong enough to compete anywhere in the world. Its strength is its human capital,” Ong says. He agrees that nearly everywhere one goes, wherever there is a top organization or institution, there is at least one Filipino who is a key player—including his own group. The Philippines was well among the top Asian countries once, with its excellent academic institutions, to begin with.

So why is the country behind and considered by many an underdeveloped, laggard community? How can the country’s economics grow more rapidly? These are questions he hopes to get some answers to during the course of the Forum.

But beyond that, with ASEAN’s next generation leaders together in one venue, Dato Ong aims to discuss an issue that has been lingering about the region: are we ready to be One ASEAN? What must we do to get there?

One ASEAN—The Dream of Economic Integration

In Ong’s travels around Asia, he realized how diverse all the countries in the Southeast Asian region are. “I realize how little we all understand each other,” he says, and he was just talking about mutual intelligibility or language barriers. “We know very little about each other. It’s as if we live in gated communities,” he adds.

He also cites another difference, illustrated in the economic scale. “We have Singapore on one hand, a very small-sized country, but the richest, and in fact, 20 times richer than the Philippines. This diversity makes challenges even greater,” he reveals. The initiative to propose an integrated ASEAN came when Dato Ong was Chairman of the APEC Council, where he saw the value of bringing this mix of people together from various fields and how its strength could be achieved when these countries got together, somehow.

“My view is that with globalization, regionalization, if ASEAN countries will not integrate, ASEAN will be marginalized. If the 10 economies integrated, we will be the 9th largest economy in the world,” he shares. “It’s not about surrendering our distinctiveness, not even about being under one government, but about making it easier to do business with each other, to reduce barriers to business, and co-exist harmoniously.”

Dato Ong does not expect this issue to be settled this year, yet he realizes that “some important things in life, even if nothing happens, have to be discussed. We will probably end up disagreeing with each other, but in disagreement, you learn a lot. The European Union, the economic and political union of 27 member nations primarily from Europe, was arrived at and achieved through tragedy.”

Admittedly, he says that a One ASEAN still has a long way to go, but whenever we can, we should open up to each other and find ways of making it easier for us in this region. “ASEAN is important for our collective future, so we must not take it for granted,” he asserts.

Will the Philippines indeed be the next Asian Tiger and are we ready for One ASEAN? These things remain to be seen. “The real action is the take-away. This doesn’t happen in the conference, it’s when you go back to your respective lives,” Dato Ong says.

More information on the One ASEAN Forum is available at http://www.asean100forum.com.

Source: http://mb.com.ph/node/331584/what-expect-upcoming-a

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