In­clu­sive­ness de­fined, AMEN

The Philippine Star - - OPINION - MARICHU A. VIL­LANUEVA

Ap­par­ently, the pro­mo­tion of the MSMEs would largely have to come from the gov­ern­ment cof­fers.

Now that it’s done and over with, we can now all make a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief. We could only thank God that once again our sense of Filipino na­tion­hood pre­vailed. We had an­other suc­cess­ful stag­ing of international events with­out any un­to­ward ma­jor in­ci­dent to mar any of it.

One af­ter the other, the Philip­pines hosted the just con­cluded As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) Lead­ers’ Sum­mit, the ASEAN Re­gional Fo­rum with di­a­logue part­ners Aus­tralia, Canada, China, European Union (EU), In­dia, Ja­pan, New Zealand, South Korea, Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion, the United Na­tions, the United States, and the East-Asia Sum­mit (EAS).

By to­day, all 20 heads of state who flew here one af­ter the other have all left ex­cept for Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang who stayed to com­plete his state visit here.

The Philip­pines for­mally turned over last night to Sin­ga­pore the host­ing next year of the ASEAN Lead­ers’ sum­mit. A few mil­i­tant groups tried but failed to dis­rupt the international gath­er­ing last Mon­day while Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte went about his tasks as chair­man of this year’s ASEAN Lead­ers’ sum­mit.

Their noisy protest ral­lies ended up in wa­ter and sound dis­per­sal ac­tions by the po­lice af­ter some pro­test­ers turned vi­o­lent. The pro­test­ers tried to get near to the ASEAN sum­mit venue at the Philip­pine International Con­ven­tion Cen­ter (PICC) in Pasay City to dra­ma­tize their cause and pur­port­edly to have their voices heard. A few scratches here and there, bro­ken arms and limbs to both po­lice­men and ral­ly­ists but all’s well that ends well, as we say.

They made an­other at­tempt yes­ter­day to get near the PICC but they were stopped at their tracks, this time with no more provoca­tive acts. Ob­serv­ing max­i­mum tol­er­ance, ku­dos to our gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity forces from both the Philip­pine National Po­lice (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) for job well done.

While these gov­ern­men­tal ac­tiv­i­ties were tak­ing place at the ASEAN Sum­mit at the PICC, par­al­lel con­fer­ences and meet­ings were also held by the pri­vate business sec­tor from these par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries. While the ASEAN lead­ers dealt with the pol­icy di­rec­tions, cap­tains of pri­vate business sec­tors were do­ing the brass tacks to turn into re­al­ity the dream of eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion and in­clu­sion to all peo­ple of the ASEAN re­gion.

The ASEAN Business Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil also headed by the Philip­pines was con­vened by pres­i­den­tial ad­viser for en­trepreneur­ship Jose Con­cep­cion III as chair­man. Speak­ing at the ABAC, Pres­i­dent Duterte ral­lied sup­port for mi­cro, small and medium en­ter­prises (MSMEs) as the “game chang­ers” that will re­ally pro­mote healthy com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket.

“MSMEs are con­sid­ered game chang­ers as they can of­fer more op­tions in the mar­ket and their pres­ence also elim­i­nates mo­nop­oly of trade and fos­ters healthy com­pe­ti­tion in the in­dus­try,” the Pres­i­dent pointed out.

Records would show MSMEs con­sti­tute more than 90 per­cent of busi­nesses in South­east Asia and have played sig­nif­i­cant roles in job gen­er­a­tion and eco­nomic growth. In the Philip­pines, Con­cep­cion noted with dis­may the MSMEs are at the bot­tom of the eco­nomic pyra­mid. With this in mind, Con­cep­cion con­vened the Asean Busi­nessIn­vest­ment Sum­mit (ABIS). The three-day con­fer­ence took place at the nearby So­laire Ho­tel and Casino also in Pasay City.

In the case of the Philip­pines, Pres­i­dent Duterte promised to al­lot more state funds to pro­grams sup­port­ing MSMEs to spur eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. “Next year, I would like to make some late changes in the GAA (Gen­eral Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Act) – the an­nual bud­get. I would like to pour more money on this medium, small, and mi­cro en­ter­prises,” the Pres­i­dent vowed.

Ap­par­ently, the pro­mo­tion of the MSMEs would largely have to come from the gov­ern­ment cof­fers.

At the sec­ond day of the ABIS, it was the turn of big business lead­ers in the re­gion like ports ty­coon En­rique Ra­zon, Jaime Au­gusto Zo­bel de Ayala, Tony Fer­nan­des, who are top chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers (CEOs) of the largest cor­po­ra­tions who talked on how to bring about eco­nomic in­clu­sion for all, es­pe­cially MSMEs.

They joined the dis­cus­sions on the ASEAN In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment “Build­ing for the Fu­ture.” It was a take­off from the “Build, Build, Build” pro­gram in the Philip­pines be­ing un­der­taken by the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“We have a lot of catch­ing up on cer­tain in­fra­struc­ture which gov­ern­ments have to do. There are cer­tain in­fra­struc­ture projects that pri­vate sec­tor can do,” Ra­zon cited.

Ra­zon should know where he is talk­ing about. He has been deal­ing with gov­ern­ments all over the world through his International Con­tainer Ter­mi­nal Ser­vices Inc. (ICTSI) that owns and op­er­ates roughly 28 con­tainer ports and ter­mi­nals world­wide from Manila to Mada­gas­car.

Cit­ing Philip­pines has fun­da­men­tally changed the way it does business, Zo­bel sees the need for the gov­ern­ment to do more to achieve in­clu­sive growth. Zo­bel, chair­man of the coun­try’s old­est con­glom­er­ate Ayala Corp., noted the Philip­pines has gone a long way in terms of de­vel­op­ment.

“For in­clu­sive­ness to kick in, eco­nomic growth must move up seven, eight to nine per­cent. Six to seven per­cent growth with pop­u­la­tion grow­ing is like walk­ing on a tread­mill,” Zo­bel said. The Philip­pines needs to have a global set of stan­dards in terms of gov­er­nance and trans­parency to at­tract more in­vest­ments, he added.

In his key­note ad­dress at the ABIS last Sun­day, Pres­i­dent Duterte for­mally launched the ASEAN Men­tor­ship for En­trepreneur­ship Net­work (AMEN), a project that seeks to put into ac­tion eco­nomic in­clu­sion as the means to nar­row down the de­vel­op­ment and in­come gap of all peo­ple in the re­gion by pro­mot­ing MSMEs.

So far, 143 MSMEs are mem­bers of the AMEN, 50 of them com­ing from the Philip­pines. They are men and women who suc­ceeded to grow their MSMEs and have grad­u­ated to be­come big play­ers soon. And as pay­back, they are part­ner­ing and men­tor­ing new and as­pir­ing MSMEs to suc­ceed.

Now, how do you de­fine in­clu­sive­ness? For MSMEs, it sim­ply means be­ing given a break to en­ter the big mar­ket and be part of the big com­pe­ti­tion. For now, the ASEAN way calls it AMEN.

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