January 19, 2021

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ASEAN 2017 Dialogues: Business Beyond Borders

For the second installment of the ASEAN Dialogues’ three-part forum and live webinar, the focus was on the region’s Economic pillar.

Mr. Gil Gonzales, Executive Director of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council led the discussion on MSMEs together with Ms. Sherill Quintana, Founder and President of Oryspa Solutions Inc. To talk about Start-ups and Innovation, they were joined by Atty. Kristine Alcantara, Policy Consultant and Program Director of the Startup Ecosystem Development Program and Mr. Jose Avelino Flores, Co-founder and President of Plug and Play Technology Center. Dr. Neil Adrian Cabiles and Ms. Katrina Luna Abelarde also let us through the ins and outs of Trade and Investment.

Before dwelling on MSMEs, ASEAN BAC Executive Director Mr. Gil Gonzales gave a brief background about the council and how the Philippines is taking the lead this year. The ASEAN BAC exists to give advice and policy recommendations but Gonzales shared how the council now goes beyond that with what he called the “Legacy Projects” or projects that would be sustained even after the term. One of these is the Roll On Roll Off or RORO which serves the purpose of marine connectivity. With RORO, the usual 3-day travel time could be cut off to 4 hours. The next project aims to connect Batangas to China and Vietnam, which is part of the blueprint for the 2025 Vision.

“Partnering for Change, Prosperity for All” – As he highlighted this year’s theme in the council, Gonzales shared, “Prosperity for all comes at a very opportune time. This inward thinking or protection is coming back again and being revived; simply because over the years, globalization has not been inclusive. It has not touched the lives of the ordinary people.” Efforts are now being made more relevant by focusing on the MSMEs “because they are the base of the economy, they have the most number of enterprises…”

The greatest challenge for MSMEs, as Gonzales recognized, is scaling up. His discussion on how MSMEs could be empowered revolved around three main points. First is identifying the challenges, then engaging with the ASEAN Economic Community or the AEC, and  finally, to push for inclusive growth.

1.       Identifying the Challenges. For the Philippines, our major concerns involve access to finance, markets, innovations, capacity building, and platforms. There have been numerous efforts to address these concerns and one of them is the AEC, which brings us to point number 2.

2.       Engage the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). At the core of the AEC is the vision to increase trade, investment, and job creation. Gonzales pounded on how AEC helps one gain access to platforms by connecting with peers in the ASEAN. He adds, “If you’re not convinced that AEC is the way to go, then you’re missing a lot of opportunities.”

3.       Encourage Inclusive Growth“In AEC, the counterpart of the ‘build, build, build,’ is ‘markets, markets, markets’!” he said as he highlighted platforms even more. Aside from the AEC and mentoring initiatives, pushing for inclusive growth through inclusive business models introduce platforms for MSMEs. While encouraging large enterprises to have MSMEs as part of their value chain, Gonzales said, “Inclusive business is not like a CSR… it should make economic sense.” To introduce MSMEs to the market, Gonzales says that such enterprises should be married to large enterprises because that’s where the market is.

Ms. Sherill Quintana, who used to be a micro-entrepreneur in Laguna is now an award-winning entrepreneur who has ventured abroad. But Quintana isn’t taking all the credit for her success; she acknowledges game-changing roles that government initiatives played. Aside from DTI’s assistance, DOST also aided her business by allowing her to loan without interest in order to buy machines for production. DOLE also made a significant contribution to their success by holding training programs for their staff. These are only some of the many programs that are geared towards supporting and building up MSMEs.