Business and Society; Networking with Asian Leaders

Manila Bulletin, June 5, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Business and Society; Networking with Asian Leaders


Byline: Bernardo Villegas

In the next ten years, the global economy will be strongly powered by three economic territories in Asia, accounting for some 47 percent of the world's population: China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). If you add Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to these three economic territories, you would have more than one half of the world's GDP.

It is, therefore, only proper that the voices of the leaders of Asian nations should be increasingly heard all over the world on such global issues as the war against poverty, the protection of the physical environment, the fight against terrorism, the demographic crisis facing the aging nations, and nuclear proliferation.

Five years ago, the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) was launched by 26 founding countries on February 27, 2001. Among the founding countries were: Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Former President Fidel Ramos has the unequalled prestige of being the first Chairman of the Forum. He presided over the General Membership Meeting and Annual Conference held in the resort city of Boao on the eastern coast of Hainan Province of China last April 20-23, 2006. The Conference was attended by more than 1,500 government and business leaders, and other eminent personalities and experts from the academe, media, multinational companies, international research centers and thinktanks, as well as multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

As President Ramos said in a special report to his paper: "The BFA describes itself as an intellectual resource center dealing with regional and global issues from an Asian perspective -- particularly the economy, culture, social development, energy, environmental sustainability, peace, security, and harmony. Some CEOs have likened it to the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos (which it complements, but does not rival). Suffice it to say that, unlike Davos, which is a winter resort in the Swiss Alps, in Boao the usual dress code during sessions is informal, casual, and minimal (read beachwear), being at the same parallel as Pangasinan-La Union across the South China Sea.

"Barely five years after it was formally launched by 26 founding Asian countries on 27 February 2001, BFA has already made its mark not only as the largest non-profit, non-government forum in Asia, but has emerged at the forefront of the discourse on critical regional issues and concerns. These include the strategic role of regional groupings, environmental protection, free and fair trade under the WTO, control and prevention of SARS and avian flu, enhancement of Asian tourism, preservation of Asian cultures, upgrade of education systems, power and energy prospects, best practices in logistics and supply chain management, development of information communications technology, strengthening of security, and other global issues.

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