Strategizing Regional

Article excerpt

Ever since the Center for Research and Communication was founded in 1967 by Dr. Jesus Estanislao and a visionary group of economists, political scientists, and business executives who had just returned from their graduate studies in the US and Europe, the advice being given by this pioneering think tank to leaders in both the government and private sectors of the Philippines was to "think global, strategize regional, and act local." Contrary to the mood then prevailing among many Filipino intellectuals who were still caught up with the inward-looking, protectionist, and ultra-nationalistic ideology so prevalent in developing countries after the Second World War, the "Friends of CRC" were constantly exhorted to look outward.

Fortunately, there were other think tanks in the Southeast Asian region that were also trying to spread the word of regionalism and internationalism.

One of them was the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) based in Jakarta. We also worked very closely with the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) of Singapore, the Institute for International and Strategic Studies (ISIS) in Malaysia, and the Chululangkorn University of Thailand. In the 1970s, as CRC was taking its first steps as a player in the ASEAN region, people who were thinking global and strategizing regional in the Philippines and in the ASEAN countries could be counted with the fingers of one hand.

The one person who did most to overcome the inward-looking and ultra-nationalistic tendencies of most leaders in the region was Dr. Hadi Soesastro, one of the founders of CSIS in Jakarta. Dr. Soesastro just passed away last May 4, 2010. It would not be an exaggeration to call Dr. Soesastro as the father of regionalism among economists and political scientists in the ASEAN.

In all the conferences in which I encountered him, he was a tireless advocate of regionalism and regional economic cooperation. He had such a gentle demeanor that he could win over even the most stubborn opponents of regional integration. He was very effective in presenting the advantages of regionalism because he could muster arguments from economics, political science, history, sociology, and other disciplines. …