The advent of global practice of the professions

December 18, 2019 | By: Arch. Benjamin K. Panganiban, Jr., (as first published in The Manila Times last December 17, 2019)

ARCHITECTURE as a profession is facing new challenges brought about by globalization and technological advancements. There are tremendous challenges and pressures to justify our relevance. In the light of the current global downturn, economic survival takes precedence over other luxuries. Some consider architecture as a luxury one can do without which is fallacious. Architecture and the built environment are relevant and crucial to our future.

Architecture represents a specific and major identity of the place and citizens as it shapes our habitat, shelter and also our physiological well-being. It contributes to economic development, employment, social integration, and promotes the quality of life and cultural diversity.

Architecture, as a discipline, deals with the environment and habitat, so it cannot ignore the problems society is facing today. Architecture and other professions are the products of technological advancements of society. As long as we are exposed to world trade, we must accept that the professionals will also have to adjust their mindset to look beyond their shores to acquire and export technologies and expertise. We are now living in a borderless world exchanging technologies and developing new ones to prolong our existence.

The architectural profession is perhaps one of the most visible of all in the context of globalization and colonization. The civilizations of Greece and Rome expanded through Europe and left, as their legacies, the architectural monuments and technologies they created. The Islamic civilizations that spread through Europe and Asia was similarly endowed with fine architectural legacies and engineering feats which manifested itself in the Moorish monuments through Spain and the Ottomans in Turkey and the Balkans. This globalization process has not changed until today.

Jan. 1, 2016 saw the integration of the the member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). It was a historic moment in the lives of more than 600,000,000 people across the region. It meant the start of a new era of global influence, of economic growth of countries, of diverse cultures and traditions and of untapped business opportunities as it opened barriers on trade, commodities and services.

It was a major phenomenon affecting the world similar to the European Union a few more years back which sought to form a common economic manufacturing base and market. This time, Asean countries intended also to form its own economic community as it started to change existing policies and structures thru mutual recognition agreements.
China, one big superpower which has now dominated worldwide economic activities is challenged by the Asean countries collectively as one in terms of foreign direct investments. This means that foreign investors that have put their businesses in China before because of low labor costs is now looking at the Southeast Asian region. It translates now to greater career opportunities for the Asean community. Since time immemorial, the saying of investments equals opportunities has not changed when investors, both foreign and domestic, choose to put their money in the Southeast Asia. We in the Asean countries benefit in terms of employment opportunities.

What is good about Asean integration today is the exchange of goods, services and people. In terms of business opportunities, safeguard duty taxes have been removed or minimized, visa requirements are not needed anymore, and tariffs have been relaxed to allow free exchange. Today, we are seeing more investments coming in, equating to more job opportunities for Filipinos.

This coming new year, we will see the advent of global practice that will slowly but surely happen. The World Trade Organization (WTO) of which the Philippines is a member, will not only globalize trade and industry by breaking down taxes and tariffs that prevent the flow of commodities, but will surely see more job opportunities in service-oriented fields. Here, the WTO will surely encourage the free exchange of professional services worldwide and Filipinos should be prepared for this.

The Philippines is a major beneficiary to this agreement worldwide as there are a lot of blue-collar jobs occupied by Filipinos in the world today. That means Filipinos abroad will be remitting billions of dollars, keeping the Philippine economy afloat. In the recent newspaper reports on our economy, our country is doing just great, especially at this time of the year. Trade deficits have been trimmed down or the gaps have been narrowed down.

In the reciprocal exchange of professional practice in the Asean region, the intention is to envision a single market of goods, capital, skilled labor, investments and services. This has already been started in different professional fields such as in architecture, accounting, medicine, law and engineering. In fact, we are seeing the influx of foreign professionals in our country doing consultancy services and the like, partnering with our local counterparts as professionals of record today; benefiting the Filipino professionals in the transfer of technologies, foreign materials, or commodity adaptability and methods of techniques.

This is the trend of Asean integration. It is intended to be seen as healthy for all Southeast Asian economies. As it looks today, it is very promising. However, there are some gray areas which the Department of Trade and Industry has put in place known as provisional bonds on some commodities such as cement, reinforcing bars and ceramic tiles, and this looks again like the imposition of safeguard duty taxes in another form. On the positive side, it also protects the country from substandard materials being imported into the Philippines unlawfully.

While the Asean countries look forward positively on the rising developments and addresses pressing concerns of this integration, there are definitely external factors affecting various professions. One of them is in the field of architecture which I wish to expound in my next column. Some of the external factors involve competitions, regulations, technologies and demographics. It is quite challenging as these external influences change the dimensions and practices of the architecture profession worldwide.

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