Promoting PH not easy, but we have to do it
I get very frustrated when the private sector is charged with fence-sitting on an issue and is projected as uncaring about the country’s welfare. First, because the part of the private sector that I belong to hardly ever fence-sits. We certainly did not on the Priority Development Assistance Fund! Second, because the larger private sector is always busy pursuing initiatives that impact positively on nation-building. And this is what I’d like to discuss, by focusing on certain recent efforts that get very little traction in the media, probably because they are not controversial. But, hey, they are good news!
The Makati Business Club (MBC) and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI) have long been providing support for various bilateral business councils. The MBC takes care of the business councils involving the Philippines with France, the United States, Britain, Singapore PCCIand Malaysia as partners. The PCCI takes care of most of the other countries. And this arrangement has been working quite well as no single organization can really take on all these councils.
Bilateral business councils mainly promote trade and investment between two countries and/or economies. This is done through missions, delegations for state visits, conferences and matching. In the case of the Philippines-Singapore Business Council, for example, there is an agreement that business missions will alternate annually. Last year, there was a Philippine mission to Singapore; this year, we are expecting a mission from Singapore. If the President goes to any of the countries with which we have business councils, the Department of Trade and Industry will most likely ask the MBC to help organize a business delegation.
Last Sept. 11 and 12, MBC assisted a Philippine Trade and Investments Promotion Mission to France. A 22-person business delegation led by the chair of the Philippines-France Business Council, Anton T. Huang Jr. of Store Specialists Inc., joined a government delegation led by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. The delegates met with French business leaders in Paris and Bordeaux. The main conference was hosted by Mouvement des Enterprises de France, the leading French business organization. A river cruise cum dinner meeting with Foreign Trade Minister Nicole Bricq was hosted by La Farge. In Bordeaux, the delegates met with officials of Dassault Aviation, which builds corporate and combat jets; of Alstom, which has worked in the Philippine energy and transportation sectors; and of the 50,000-member Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce.
On Oct. 2 and 3, the MBC supported a similar mission to London with Jesus P. Tambunting of Planters Bank leading the business delegation of 25. Tambunting, a former ambassador to the United Kingdom, now chairs the Philippine-British Business Council. A government delegation led by Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo partnered with the business delegation, and together they made presentations and held business-matching meetings with two groups of British business representatives. There were close to 300 participants at the three major meetings organized.
Putting together a joint public-private mission is never easy. Drawing up a schedule with a Cabinet official as the lead and matching that with the schedules of counterpart officials in the country to be visited is the first major challenge. Once that is set, organizing the private and government delegations is the next major endeavor. Then come the logistics and all the necessary coordination between and among the lead government agencies, embassies, business councils, and other relevant business groups of both countries. Luckily, in these recent business missions, there was fantastic support from the embassy and lead agency staffs.
Organizing a business delegation as part of a presidential delegation is even more challenging.
A possible success indicator of the recent business missions is the fact that three business missions—two from Britain and the other from Singapore—are set to visit the country in November and December. Coordination and logistics work is now well underway. The preparatory activities for inbound missions are just as taxing—but just as rewarding for as long as the other key factors that affect investment decisions are positive as well.
Some of the factors that affect investment decisions are: ease of doing business (which the National Competitiveness Council, with the cooperation of line agencies and private-sector partners, is addressing); infrastructure such as roads, railways, ports and airports that are in the pipeline of government projects; and a fair competitive environment that the enactment of antitrust legislation can enhance. In addressing all these factors, the private sector is also heavily involved through research, advocacy and continuing dialogue with various sectors.
The MBC, PCCI and the foreign chambers will most certainly continue promoting the Philippines because there are many truly good things going for the country despite the many challenges. Our officials and ambassadors and their teams have been working very hard to sell the Philippines. We in the private sector can do no less.
What other sectors and the broader Philippine community must understand is that we in the private sector are pursuing many avenues for progress and development and for change and reform if needed. While greed continues to be a problem to contend with, the wisdom of nation-building through inclusive growth and a culture of integrity is gaining more momentum in the private sector.
Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is the executive director of the Makati Business Club.
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