Philippines Spearheads ASEAN AI Regulatory Framework

IN World Economic Forum in Davos, Martin Romualdez, the president of the Philippine Congress, announced a major initiative to present a legal framework to regulate 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 importance of AI and cybersecurity in the digital economy.

Romualdez’s proposal highlights the creation of a Southeast Asian regulatory framework, drawing on the Philippines’ own draft AI legislation. This decision underscores the urgency of managing the rapid advances and applications of generative AI, which are generating both excitement and concern globally due to their potential to revolutionize industries. The initiative is seen as a “gift” to ASEAN, intended to promote regional cooperation in digitization and cyber security within economic policies.

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

For the Philippines, this initiative has particular significance due to its sizeable business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, which is currently facing significant challenges. Romualdez highlighted the vulnerability of this sector and the need to transform and upskill staff to meet the demands of an AI-enabled economy. The proposed legal framework aims not only to meet the needs of the Philippines, but also to be relevant to the entire ASEAN region, thereby promoting regional cooperation in the face of technological advancement.

Romualdez’s announcement reflects a global trend in which regulators are quickly scrambling to draft regulations to govern the use of generative AI. This emerging technology with its enormous potential has become a central focus for many economies, necessitating a balanced approach that encourages innovation while mitigating risks.

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