18 November 2017 – As all leaders’ summits go, a declaration caps the meeting often with promises to get the job done better. Our recently concluded Asean Leaders Summit was no different as the declaration concluded by saying, “We look to the next 50 years and beyond, confident in our ability to build on our past achievements and address future challenges effectively as one Asean Community.”

I don’t think there is any doubt that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has in some ways and forms actually promoted regional cooperation and contributed toward regional peace, progress and prosperity, as aspired for by the 1967 Bangkok Declaration that launched this regional community. Over the past 50 years, the very fact that the community has continued to aspire together and even expanded in number is proof that Bangkok was not a wasted initiative. Today, Asean already has “Asean-plus” trade agreements with China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand that facilitate trade beyond the region.

Before many of you rant about what-could-have and what-should-have, maybe more and more of us should understand what Asean is all about and help tell others what it could potentially achieve to make life better for families even in the region’s remotest areas. We ought to try harder to embrace our “Asean-ness,” for one. I see so many cultural bridges that should be uniting us more. I see shared values that make dialogue easier. I see traditions that our nations hold dear that can bind rather than divide.

So, everyone’s first assignment is to read the original Bangkok Declaration and then digest this 50th year’s Manila Declaration. It’s just a google away!

There were a number of other projects and programs that rode with the Asean meetings and activities in the Philippines’ hosting year. One that I think is worth sharing is the Asean Impact Challenge, a regional program to discover, encourage and recognize innovators and entrepreneurs in the region. Ten finalist teams were selected from over 300 applications for their contribution toward accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Asean post-2015 development agenda through cross-sector engagements and scaling disruptive innovations.

The chosen startups experienced an intensive 8-week acceleration phase called the “Global Goals Lab” to fine-tune their pitches as well as their goals as social enterprises. This forms part of the Asean Impact Challenge program that seeks to identify promising startups in Asean and help them scale up.

The finalists included Artemis Health Ecosystem of the Philippines for the Inclusive Healthcare track, Jala of Indonesia (Inclusive Technology), Minh Hong Biotech of Vietnam (Inclusive Business), Uproot Aquaponics of the Philippines (Inclusive Agriculture), Zakat Kasih of Indonesia (Inclusive Finance), Ecoloo of Malaysia (Inclusive Sanitation), of the Philippines (Inclusive Education), Empleo of the Philippines (Inclusive Livelihoods), The Picha Project of Malaysia (Humanitarian Action), and Waste4Change of Indonesia (Inclusive Cities).

Hailed as the top two were Jala, which presented an IoT device that gathers water quality data to help farmers access historical data and analysis to increase yield and minimize risk of harvest failure, and Waste4Change, which focused on a turnkey waste-to-wealth initiative supported by a technology platform enabling everyone to be part of the circle economy. I understand that the Philippines’ Uproot Aquaponics could have also made it with its community-shared aquaponics linking low-income communities to nearby establishments to create an avenue to sell produce and feed their families healthy and nutritious food. I have to brag that the key mover of Uproot Aquaponics is Robi del Rosario, Makati Business Club’s in-house graphics and layout artist!

There is impact happening in the Asean community but this can be multiplied exponentially not just by initiatives like the Asean Impact Challenge and the leaders’ declaration but also by the peoples of Asean actually getting to know and understand our one Asean better. So, go tell the world!

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is executive director of the Makati Business Club and vice president of Integrity Initiative Inc.


Posted on 18 November 2017 under Business Matters section of The Philippine Daily Inquirer