Business leaders: ASEAN has to embrace changes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 14) -- Business leaders agree the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a long way to go even as the group has achieved much in half a century.

The next agenda is achieving a regional digital economy for businesses to cope with the changing times and make sure that the gains reach the masses -- a trend embraced by the SM Group.

Teresita Sy-Coson, Vice Chair of SM Investments Corp., shared with CNN Philippines how their family business, which started a modest retail endeavor, has since expanded to banking, property, and portfolio investments.

"We grow when our customer grow. We go where the customers are...We'll go digital and we still continue our stores our brick and mortars we'll do both. We'll expand in both areas," she said.

Sy-Coson has an advise for those wishing to start their own business: "If you have a certain target you have to be very determined. You have to work hard and also research a lot."

She said going digital is one way of connecting ASEAN to open more markets that will translate to opportunities and jobs.

Former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo shared this view.

She gave an outlook for the region in the next 50 years.

"We see increasing prosperity driven by technology and artificial intelligence, and yet we see the possibility of greater income disparity at the same tine more nations with capability and there'll be attempts of terrorism," Arroyo said.

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo sees challenging years ahead for the region.

In her speech at the close of the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit Tuesday, Robredo said, "Artificial intelligence will make a lot of jobs obsolete... in the next five to 10 years our people will have to compete with machines... and some say this may cause civil unrest."

She said ASEAN must give opportunities to the youth so that they will not be attracted to activities that do harm, such as extremism.