ASEAN, according to a Filipino Millennial

As a Grade 12 student taking up Humanities and Social Sciences, I believe its important to have a deeper and more critical understanding of what ASEAN is. I remember one of my teachers advising me that I should be able to give a “scholastic” answer in answering questions. But from my perspective, the ASEAN is still an abstract concept.

Since Manila is hosting the 50th anniversary of ASEAN this year, I am starting to understand it better. My first attempt in studying these international organizations goes back to 2015, and it was about a different international organization, but still somewhat similar to ASEAN.  It was about the APEC, or the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. I remember learning that these international organizations are created for the sole purpose of helping each of its member-countries.

This cooperation is based on economically and politically maintaining stable diplomatic relations. If this is so, then I guess most people from the Philippines, especially millennials, would agree to such organizations.

Of course, the more we can interact and work together with other countries, the better chances we have in getting access to modern technology, career opportunities, international products, among other socio-cultural exchanges.

Although there are a lot of international organizations similar to the ASEAN such as APEC, G20, and the EU, I think their goals and direction are clear: To make sure all countries integrate themselves within the global economy that will lead to a life of prosperity and stability. In the near future, I think we will be able to see the benefits of being part of ASEAN in well-developed countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and others.

But as a citizen of the Philippines, which is another member of the ASEAN, and as a Filipino Millennial, I have also witnessed continuing rampant poverty, violence, and environmental destruction. And I have begun to question the purpose of ASEAN.

(Photo : AP/NEWSis)

(Photo : AP/NEWSis)

For the 2017 ASEAN Summit, different organizations are already preparing anti-ASEAN protests. They will also protest the upcoming state visit of US President Donald Trump here in the Philippines. Similar groups have also protested the 2015 APEC Summit that was also hosted by the Philippines. With these protests, in relation to what is really happening in the Philippines, doubts have started to stir in my mind, and I’m sure I am not the only one.  Questions like, “Is there something wrong with these organizations?” and “Are they even solving our problems, or are they worsening them? If so, why?”

According to some of these protestors, the ASEAN, as well as other international organizations, are promoting and imposing neo-liberal and imperialistic policies from their home-countries. I have attended some rallies and activities of these organizations and have heard that Third-World countries such as the Philippines, are being exploited by the richer countries.

Through such international organizations, poorer and weaker countries are bound to whatever agreement is made in these associations, especially those involving our domestic economic policies. These agreements are allegedly exploiting our resources and our economy; only benefitting the rich. In the end, it is the poor common people, the common Filipino, that will be the losers of the deals.

With social media today, I guess anyone can be an expert on ASEAN, international relations, politics, pop culture, or basically anything. Anyone can give an expert opinion; they can give “scholastic answers” regarding ASEAN and every single issue we face each day. But in the end, the most important question we millennials will ask, is “Will the ASEAN give us a sustainable and equitable future?”

This is the most important question we would like to ask since we will be the future citizens and leaders of our country. Whatever the ASEAN decides today, will greatly affect the future, or our future, for that matter.

The ASEAN may still be an abstract concept to many, but to us, the millennials, we can see a glimpse of what it can be. We see it as an opportunity, and an opportunity to share ideas, an opportunity to promote our country. An opportunity for a brighter future.

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