Philippines Spearheads ASEAN AI Regulatory Framework

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At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Martin Romualdez, the Speaker of the Philippines’ Congress, announced a significant initiative to present a legal framework for regulating Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when the Philippines chairs the bloc in 2026. This move marks a proactive step towards addressing the growing significance of AI and cybersecurity in the digital economy.

Romualdez’s proposition emphasizes creating a Southeast Asian regulatory framework, drawing from the Philippines’ own draft legislation on AI. This decision underlines the urgency of governing the rapid advancements and applications of generative AI, which are causing both excitement and concern globally due to their potential to revolutionize industries. The initiative is seen as a “gift” to ASEAN, intending to foster regional collaboration in digitization and cybersecurity within economic policies.

The Philippines’ push towards a structured AI regulatory framework contrasts with ASEAN’s current approach, which leans more towards a business-friendly, less compliance-heavy model. This difference highlights the varying approaches to AI governance in a region characterized by diverse rules governing censorship, intellectual property, misinformation, and internet use.

For the Philippines, this initiative holds particular importance due to the nation’s significant Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector, which is currently facing substantial challenges. Romualdez stressed the vulnerability of this sector and the necessity to transform and upskill personnel to meet the demands of an AI-enabled economy. The proposed legal framework aims not only to cater to the Philippines’ needs but also to be apt for the entire ASEAN region, thus promoting regional cooperation in the face of technological advancements.

Romualdez’s announcement reflects a global trend where regulators are rapidly trying to draft regulations to manage the use of generative AI. This emerging technology, with its vast potential, has become a central focus for many economies, necessitating a balanced approach that encourages innovation while mitigating risks.

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