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The road to the establishment of the ASEAN Community began in 2003 through the Declaration of

ASEAN Concord II in Bali, Indonesia, otherwise known as the Bali Concord II. In 2003, with the
increasing interdependence between and among ASEAN countries and as a response to the ASEAN
Financial Crisis, the ASEAN members declared the establishment of the ASEAN Community. The
creation of the ASEAN Community, however, may as well be considered a stimulus to attract
leverage in the global economy.

The Bali Concord II was hailed as a historic step towards regional integration. It consists of three
pillars -- the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN
Socio-Cultural Community. Each of these pillars has a corresponding road map or a Blueprint.
Under the Bali Concord II, the ASEAN Economic Community was declared as the realization of the
end-goal of economic integration as outlined in the ASEAN Vision 2020, to create a stable,
prosperous and highly competitive ASEAN economic region in which there is a free flow of goods,
services, investment, and a freer flow of capital, equitable economic development and reduced
poverty and socio-economic disparities in year 2020.

ASEAN leaders eventually saw the need to accelerate the establishment of the ASEAN Economic
Community to 2015 from the original target year of 2020. This acceleration exemplified one step
further towards the realization of the ASEAN Community.

Of the three pillars, the ASEAN Economic Community has achieved major steps towards the
attainment of a single market production base and towards the integration of a unified economic
block. The foundations have been laid towards this integration as far back as
1992 upon the creation of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and the subsequent adoption of the
Common Effective Preferential Tariff Scheme, which reduced tariff rates for goods originating within
the ASEAN.

Keeping in mind the end-goal of regional economic integration, the realization of the AEC, which was
formally launched in Dec. 31, 2015, is pursued under four elements or basic initiatives -- single
market production base, competitive economic region, equitable economic development, and
integration into the global economy. All of these initiatives are defined in detail in the ASEAN
Economic Blueprint, which lays down the basic courses of action to achieve integration.

The single production base is comprised of five core elements -- free flow of goods, free flow of
services, free flow of investment, free flow of capital, and free flow of skilled labor. For free flow of
services, the goal is to create an economic community with a steady access to service suppliers.

Under the ASEAN Economic Blueprint, by 2015, there should be substantially no restrictions on
trade in services for all other service sectors. This is necessary for integration requires not only free
flow of capital and goods but also steady supply of services. This mandates the ASEAN member-
states to allow maximum mobility of people to engage in different service sectors.

Just last year in Kuala Lumpur, the ASEAN countries adopted the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
This ten-year plan seeks to create an ASEAN Community that is highly integrated and cohesive;
competitive, innovative and dynamic; with enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation and
socially-responsible; and more resilient, inclusive, and people-oriented, people-centered that is
integrated with the global economy.

With the all the road maps set to fast-track a more cohesive economic region, the impacts on
different service sectors are inevitable, and legal services is not spared. The provision of legal
services to a more diversified clientele is in the horizon and so is a multi-jurisdictional set of
corporations and businessmen entering into ventures that are governed by different sets of laws and
with various mechanisms of dispute settlement. This is a conducive climate for a new kind of legal

As foreseen by lawyers who have long been engaged in the practice of law, the impact of economic
development in the era of integration is inevitable. Thus, it is necessary to look ahead, respond to
the possibility of higher demand for legal services and move towards educating a new breed of
lawyers who are well-trained and equipped with knowledge obtained through various levels of
exposure across the ASEAN and multinational firms, corporations, and international organizations.

The observations are accurate and many articles have been written about how Filipino lawyers must
and should prepare for the coming wave of cross-border legal practice.

Atty. Danilo Concepcion, Dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law, has written about
ASEAN Law and the ASEAN Law Student.

In his article, he points out the challenges in integrating ASEAN Law into the Philippine legal
education. Some steps have been taken to introduce ASEAN law in the curriculum. Currently, some
institutions like the Ateneo de Manila School of Law and University of the Philippines School of Law
have been offering electives that focus on the ASEAN.

The continuing changes as discussed above reflect how Filipino lawyers and law students alike
should respond to this stimulus. However, what remains a more interesting aspect is the possibility
of bigger changes in so far as the landscape of the practice of law in the Philippines is concerned.
We are ready to admit the need to produce a corps of Filipino lawyers who can seek for recognition
and be employed as counsels or practitioners abroad, but are we ready to recognize other foreign
practitioners in the Philippines?

It must be noted that under Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution, the second paragraph of Sec. 14 states,
The practice of all professions in the Philippines shall be limited to Filipino citizens, save in cases
provided for by law. In the context of the ASEAN integration and in the context of facilitating free
flow of services, the 1987 Philippine Constitution allows for the passage of subsequent laws that
may allow foreigners to practice a particular profession. However, for the practice of law, Article VIII,
Sec. 5 par. 5 remains the pertinent and operational provision as to who can practice law in the
Philippines, which reserves to the Supreme Court the power over admission to the practice of law.

Bearing these provisions in mind, the impetus brought by the thrust towards regional economic
integration also calls for the need to rethink and revisit the raison detre as to why some professions
should or should not remain reserved for Filipinos alone. This is indispensable, should full
participation and compliance be sought, in light of the formal establishment of the ASEAN Economic

Unless these matters are addressed, the appreciation the full benefits of regional integration will
remain incomplete. The free flow of services is a core element in the structure of regional integration.
The free flow of legal services necessarily requires a steady supply of practitioners in anticipation of
the higher demand for lawyers who engage in cross-border practice of law. Opening ASEAN
Member-States legal systems might become a necessary derivative of opening up its economic
system in the name of regional integration.