Photo by The U.S. Army | flickr.com. 2007.

Southeast Asia has always been a popular destination for tourism and international travel. With its beaches, beautiful cities, and rich, diverse cultures, Southeast Asia has something for every kind of traveller. Although Southeast Asia’s prestige and culture make it quite the desirable place to visit. However, it isn’t all fun and games - with the current environmental, political, and economic issues faced by the developing nations of Southeast Asia, you may want to think twice about relocating there.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was created in the name of improving the environmental and economic status of Southeast Asian countries. Beginning with the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, ASEAN later included Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. The primary focus of ASEAN is to cultivate the economic, cultural, and social development of its member countries, as well as looking after peace, stability, and the health of the environment within its member countries. As all of these countries progress together, co-operation will allow benefits to flow from one country to the next.

One of the main initiatives within ASEAN right now is the ASEAN Business Club, which aims to propel growth in through foreign investment and trade. In turn, each country gains resources to improve all sectors and raise overall standards for ASEAN countries. The success of this initiative would play a key role in providing Southeast Asia with the economic growth and prosperity to make changes for the better. Developing nations in Southeast Asia are struggling to keep up in the global environment, and these nations need to build capital for economic growth so that changes could be made on all fronts.

Having lived in the Philippines for 11 years, I have witnessed first-hand the lack of environmental policy and enforcement within the country. Air pollution, excessive littering, and flooding due to clogged sewage and unregulated logging are only a few examples of the environmental issues faced by the Philippines. The poor economic state contributes to vast problems in the form of high crime rates, mass poverty, and widespread political corruption.

It comes down to sustainable economic development, which can empower people economically, and also provide better funding for infrastructural development, and essential social services. From a more micro-oriented perspective, it would be easier for people to care about the environment if they did not have to worry about whether or not they would be able to feed themselves and their families – a problem, like in many impoverished nations, that is faced in Southeast Asia.

This introduction to ASEAN is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Southeast Asia. Stay tuned, as I will be completing a series of articles touching on different environmental issues and initiatives in this part of the world to illustrate and discuss how they all intertwine.