ASEAN Integration

For the past several years the accountancy profession in the Philippines has been preparing for ASEAN integration which officially starts in 2015. The ASEAN integration is a cooperative movement within the ASEAN community composed of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and the Philippines.

The cooperative movement consists of three (3) pillars: economic, socio-cultural, and political. The development has largely been on the economic side with the advancement of a regional economy characterized by the free flow of goods and services. This would mean lowering or removing trade barriers among the ASEAN countries.

The Philippine accounting profession has signed the region's Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) which lays down the foundation for the practice of accountancy between and among member countries. The MRA will allow cross-border accountancy practice through compliance with certain standards, rules and regulations and considering the host country's professional requirements.

Essentially, a certified public accountant (CPA) or chartered accountant (CA) can practice in a host country in ASEAN by complying with the latter's professional requirements. In the Philippines, the ASEAN CPA or CA will have to possess the necessary educational background and pass the licensure examinations conducted by the Board of Accountancy (BoA).

The BoA is the government body under the Professional Regulations Commission that regulates and oversees the practice of accountancy in the Philippines. In the Philippine setting, the accounting profession has the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) as the accredited accounting professional organization for ASEAN.

The accounting profession is composed of four (4) sectors: public, government, education, and commerce and industry. Each sector is under the umbrella of a professional organization, i.e., Association of CPA's in Public Practice (ACPAPP), Government Associations of CPAs (GACPA), National Association of CPAs in Education (NACPAE), and Association of CPAs in Commerce and Industry (ACPACI). However, all newly registered CPAs are accredited members of the mother organization, PICPA.

The ASEAN Integration also provides for the accreditation of CPAs or CAs who wish to practice in other countries in the region. Based on an agreed structure of equivalencies which is presently being finalized among member-countries, a CPA or CA can be accredited as an ASEAN professional provided he registers his qualifications with a central qualifying and coordinating body in ASEAN. This professional will then be able to practice his profession in the ASEAN country of his choice within the category wherein he is qualified.

The ASEAN integration is expected to broaden the employment of accounting expertise among the member countries and hasten the economic development in the region. This will also give rise to heightened competition among practicing professionals and encouragement of strategic alliances among accounting firms in the region.