Promoting Liberty and Prosperity Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

[1] Remarks of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN, Chairman of the Asean Law Association (Philippines Chapter) during the Round Table Discussion on “The Philippine Foreign Investment Rules and the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement” held online via Zoom on August 24, 2020.

Fellow officers and members of the ALA who registered their attendance in this webinar, especially our brethren from the ASEAN countries of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, our esteemed members from the Philippines, distinguished panelists and reactors, ladies and gentlemen,

As Chairman of ALA Philippines, the principal organizer of this event, I warmly welcome all of you to this Round Table Discussion on the Philippine Foreign Investment Rules and the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement.

The ASEAN Law Association, or ALA, was founded 40 years ago as the premier organization of judges, government lawyers, private law practitioners and law professors in Southeast Asia.

ALA Philippines Supports ALA

From its humble beginnings in 1979, ALA is now recognized in the Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (or ASEAN) as ASEAN’s lone accredited civil society organization for law. ALA aims, among others, “to provide the organizational framework for regional cooperation in the study of, and research in, the laws of the ASEAN countries with a view to harmonizing [them] as required by the social and economic development of the ASEAN region.”

I am honored to say that ALA Philippines has played and continues to play an active role in establishing and expanding our mother organization, the ALA. Notably, its first General Assembly was held in Manila in 1980. ALA’s founding president, the late Senator Edgardo J. Angara, was a Filipino. Two other Filipinos have also been presidents: the late Chief Justice Marcelo B. Fernan and my eminent friend of over 50 years, Atty. Ave Cruz, who now sits as Chairman of the ASEAN Law Institute (AsnLI).

Upon the request of then ALA President Ave Cruz, ALA Philippines asked Prof. Andre Palacios to prepare the AsnLI concept paper and, thereafter, sponsored its creation during our ALA Governing Council meetings. ALA Philippines hosted the AsnLI’s inaugural in April 2019. Needless to say, we vow to continue supporting it.

ALA Philippines thanks our co-organizer, the Asian Institute of Management or AIM, headed by my good friend, Dr. Jikjeong Kang. I have sentimental relations with AIM because my dear wife, Prof. Elenita C. Panganiban, taught there for 39 years before retiring in 2009, and our daughter, Maria Theresa P. Manalac teaches there now.

AIM is globally recognized as Asia’s pioneer in graduate business education. I believe it shares ALA’s aim of promoting ASEAN regional cooperation. Certainly, its outstanding alumni of business leaders help in facilitating ASEAN integration.

Why Talk of Investments Now

Our topic this afternoon is foreign investments. Why talk about investments when businesses are barely surviving the COVID-19 pandemic? Two reasons:

First, we need to be forward-looking. Once the worst is over, ASEAN countries will need more investments to boost their economies. While we continue to address the public health issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should also keep an eye on the steps to be taken to revive the economy, such as investment promotion, facilitation, and protection. Now is the time to discuss these next steps.

Second, if there is anything that the pandemic has shown us, it is that we are in this together and that an organized response produces far better results than isolated actions. The Agreement to be discussed today is our organized response to the scarcity of investments brought about by risk and uncertainty. Again, I say: unity will produce far better results than isolated, uncoordinated actions.

Together, the ASEAN countries can sell the region as a single market and production base. As a single market, there is free flow of investments among ASEAN countries. As a single production base, investments will be uniformly protected, promoted, and facilitated in the region.

Liberty and Prosperity

Before I end, let me share my personal excitement at our topic and at the array of experts who will discuss it from various viewpoints, which portray my personal legal philosophy of safeguarding liberty and nurturing prosperity under the rule of law.

As I declared during the ALA General Assembly on February 26, 2015, I believe in the intertwining and interdependent relationship between justice and jobs; freedom and food; ethics and economics; integrity and investments; peace and development; liberty and prosperity; these twin beacons must always go together; one is useless without the other. I further believe that the best way to conquer poverty, to create wealth and to share prosperity is to unleash the entrepreneurial genius of people by granting them the freedom and the tools to help themselves and society.

This online conference certainly heralds and promotes this philosophy. So, I say again Welcome and Mabuhay! May we have a successful and fruitful discussion! Maraming salamat po.

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