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Philippines to propose ASEAN AI regulatory framework, house speaker says

FILE PHOTO: 54th WEF annual meeting in Davos

(Reuters) - The Philippines plans to propose the creation of a Southeast Asian regulatory framework to set rules on artificial intelligence (AI), based on the country's own draft legislation, the speaker of its Congress said on Wednesday.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Martin Romualdez said on a panel the Philippines would present a legal framework to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when it chairs the bloc in 2026.

"We'd like to give as a gift to the ASEAN a legal framework. ... Digitisation, even in our economic policy is very, very much right up there as a priority," he said.

"Alongside that is cybersecurity, and the concomitant concerns and issues as generative artificial intelligence, a field that needs a lot of support and regulation. We feel that in ASEAN, we can capitalise and optimise these developments, but within a framework of regulatory support for this."

Regulators globally are racing to draft regulations to govern use of generative AI, which is stirring excitement and fear about its potential to reshape industries.

Such a move could be a challenge in ASEAN, a region of nearly 700 million people and 10 countries with widely divergent rules governing censorship, intellectual property, misinformation, social media and use of the internet.

The Philippine proposal would contrast sharply with the steps taken so far by ASEAN states, which have taken a business-friendly approach to AI regulation, according to a draft of an ASEAN "guide to AI ethics and governance" seen and reported by Reuters in October.

That voluntary guide would reduce the compliance burden and allow for more innovation in the region, some technology executives have said.

Romualdez, a cousin of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said legislation on generative AI was especially important for the Philippines because of its crucial business process outsourcing sector, which was "now under severe threat".

"It's a very vulnerable sector in a very, very bright industry today. But we see a transformation of personnel and upskilling of these personnel to a level to support generative AI will be likely a very, very logical direction to take," Romualdez said.

"It is incumbent upon us in Congress to come up with a legal framework that will not just fit the Philippines, but will be very, very appropriate for the ASEAN."

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Richard Chang)