Business Matters

Welcome to the Philippines

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Since joining the Inquirer’s pool of Business Matters contributors in 2011, I have twice written about the Apec Business Advisory Council (Abac) Meetings that I have been attending as lead staffer to our Abac Philippine representatives, Doris Ho, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Tony Tan Caktiong. The Makati Business Club (MBC) was tapped to serve as the Abac Philippines secretariat, and our office has been in a managed chaos of sorts since December last year, as the Philippines is playing host to Abac’s first meeting of 2013 this Jan. 20 to 23. When MBC first agreed to help our Abac representatives, little did we know that such commitment would mean organizing an Abac conference in Makati City.

When online registration closed last week, the number of expected participants to the meeting was hitting close to 250, promising one of the largest Abac meetings yet.  Members, staffers, government senior officials and guests from the 21 Apec economies will gather in Manila to begin discussions on the theme set by this year’s host economy, Indonesia: “Partnership, Resilience and Building Bridges to Growth.” They will focus on “Strengthening Regional Resilience with New Areas of Growth” and “Strengthening Economic Foundations and Financial Structures for Balanced, Inclusive and Sustainable Growth”—the sub-themes of this year’s work program.

As Abac’s website explains, “detailed recommendations will be developed during the course of this year on all priorities identified in the 2013 work program” which “will be conveyed to Apec governments through a range of avenues, including Apec Senior Officials, Trade, SME and Finance Ministers and, directly, Apec Economic Leaders at the annual Dialogue with Apec Leaders.”  This year’s dialogue with Apec leaders will take place in Bali, Indonesia in October.

On the sidelines of the Abac meeting, Abac Philippines and the MBC, in partnership with Banco de Oro and Rappler, have organized the Apec SME Summit with the theme “Breaking Barriers through Innovation.” This will be held on Jan. 20, 2013 (1-5 p.m., at the Francisco Santiago Hall of the BDO Conference Center, Makati City). Through this summit, we aim to inspire and motivate Filipino entrepreneurs, via the stories of successful business innovators in the Apec region. The summit also seeks to challenge our entrepreneurs to improve and recreate the way they do business and break into local and international markets. Our entrepreneurs must come up with novel new ways to produce or market their products and services, and conduct their business operations to meet the demands of the 21st-century global market.

The summit has an impressive lineup of speakers, including prominent business personalities and social entrepreneurs like Vincent Lo, founder and chair, Shui On Group (Hong Kong); Cher Wang, chair, VIA Technologies Inc. and HTC Group (Chinese Taipei); Diane Wang, founder, DHGate.com (China); Dado Banatao, managing partner, Tallwood Venture Capital (Philippines); Tony Tan Caktiong, president and CEO, Jollibee Foods Corp. (Philippines); Sheila Marcelo, president, Care.com (Philippines); Winston Damarillo, CEO and cofounder, Morphlabs (Philippines); Anna Meloto-Wilk, president and cofounder, Gandang Kalikasan Inc. (Philippines); Aris Alip, founder and managing director, Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (Philippines); Bambang Ismawan, cofounder and chair, Bina Swadaya (Indonesia); and Maria Ressa, CEO, Rappler (Philippines).  To maximize the impact of the summit and bring their message to a much larger audience, Rappler will livestream the proceedings and bloggers will also be encouraged to write about the insights and experiences of the various speakers.

Alongside the thrust toward the goal of freer markets and increased trade and prosperity among Apec economies, another key component of the upcoming Manila Abac meeting and the 2015 Apec Summit to be hosted by the Philippines is youth involvement. For the entirety of the Abac meeting, student-volunteers will be on-hand to assist in the smooth conduct of the different events simultaneously taking place. The SME Summit has also opened its doors to students and young entrepreneurs as a means to further promote innovation and a pioneering spirit among the youth, whether in establishing their own enterprises or in other fields. It is hoped that similar efforts at youth participation, perhaps on a larger scale, can take place at the 2015 Apec Summit.

Truly, today’s times are certainly unrecognizable compared to 50 years ago. Crosscontinent interconnectedness, ingenuity on the international level, and friendships between peoples and across borders are more pronounced now, more than ever.  Thus, as the Philippines slowly emerges as among Asia Pacific’s leading economies, we reiterate our challenge to Filipino entrepreneurs and the youth to act local now but to think global tomorrow. With a little over two years remaining until the establishment of the Asean Economic Community 2015, as well as the Philippines’ hosting of the Apec Summit, it is about time that serious talk be conducted with regard to economic integration, regional cooperation, and the moves the Philippines must take to keep in step with the rest of the world. It is greatly hoped that the Abac meeting and all its affiliated events would indeed snowball into a fruitful discourse on the above topics, whether in the skyscrapers of our business districts, the halls of government, or in the classrooms of our universities.

With that, to all participants and guests of the first Abac meeting of 2013, we say “Welcome to the Philippines! Mabuhay!”

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is executive director of the Makati Business Club.

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