Last Monday, I was tasked to represent President Duterte during the celebration of the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day and the Philippine Independence Day of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FFCCCII) headed by a long-time Go Negosyo advocate, Henry Lim Bon Liong of SL Agritech Corp.
I was asked to deliver a speech to inspire the audience. For this, I had two valuable words: Peace and prosperity. Let me share my message with you as well.
Peace and prosperity. These are two words that are very important, especially now that the three remaining years in the term of our President has begun. When he was elected as president, he was the mayor of Davao City, considered as an underdog in the elections. But he showed the Filipino people what kind of leader can change their lives, and his promise has been partly fulfilled in the past three years. With only three years left under his leadership, we must now accelerate.
It is important to note that prosperity cannot be only for us in this room. Without an inclusive economy, without prosperity for all, our President will not achieve his mission to give Filipinos a better future. Peace is equally important. Without peace, there can be no prosperity. The Philippines must be a friend to all countries. China, especially, as one of our closest neighbors, is a powerhouse and a great world leader. And of course, America has been with us through the years and has helped bring independence to the Filipino people.
The Philippines must succeed as a nation by helping our small entrepreneurs. Many of you were once upon a time small entrepreneurs. What is admirable is the Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs’ ability to start a business. We all admire many of our taipans today for their ability to create businesses all over the Philippines. These businesses have propelled our country forward to where it is today. The business acumen that you possess comes from every value that you have inherited from your parents who have mentored you – on the basic essence of being frugal, being passionate, being persistent and, of course, being aggressive in any endeavor that you do.
I admire many Filipino-Chinese businessmen. Many of them are my friends and they get everything done extremely well. Your chamber has greatly helped our advocacy reach out to the countless of micro-, small and medium enterprises that now make up 99.6 percent of all registered businesses in our country. I say helping these enterprises achieve profitability and sustainability will clearly translate to growth across the sectors. I say the country’s overall growth rate can be much better if wealth is shared and enjoyed by more Filipino people. Yes, we export more people overseas and this brings in a lot of dollars regularly to our economy just as the BPO sector is, of course, a great revenue source for us. But in the end, every overseas Filipino worker will want to come home and have the same opportunities that you have.
In my meeting with the President about a month ago, I told him that I believe that we have to focus on three areas that can push this country to become more inclusive – tourism, agriculture and digitalization.
Tourism is one big area where China and many other countries can help boost the Philippine economy. Thailand has 38 million tourists annually and the Philippines has an equivalent of over seven million. The platform of tourism is the most inclusive platform that can benefit many Filipinos out there given the sheer number of tourists who come to the Philippines. As I have shared with many of our secretaries in the government, access to our country is very critical. Airports, roads, ports are what we need. We are glad this government is moving along that direction. With the help of our partners – our Chinese partners and other nations who are helping us – infrastructure development will make our country more inclusive.
The next area that I told the President about is agriculture. The bulk of our micro-and small entrepreneurs belongs to this sector. If we cannot solve the agriculture issues in the country, poverty will remain unsolved. On the other hand, we know that China possesses such great talents in this field that we can tap. We in the ASEAN Business Advisory Council-Philippines, which I chair, are also using our network in the ASEAN to bring in talents from Vietnam and Cambodia to help mentor our farmers and enable them to scale up and become successful entrepreneurs. We must also make farming attractive to the youth as it was before. Your president, Mr. Henry Lim Bon Liong, owns an agribusiness in the rice sector. Now that rice tariffication has started, I can say that it is the boldest step this government has taken to liberalize rice and empower our farmers. We will teach them how to compete with the rest of the world and this is where mentorship is, again, needed.
As you know, we in Go Negosyo are undertaking a massive mentorship program across the country, mobilizing 800 mentors to capacitate micro- and small entrepreneurs. And yet, this is not enough. Thus, I am calling on the Filipino-Chinese Chamber to be more active. With the remaining three years of our dearest President’s incumbency, we cannot fail to help deliver this promise of a better life for the Filipino people.
The third area that I told the President about is digitalization. To me, this is what will change the landscape. This is what will change how you and I open up our businesses to people. We are pushing today the alliance of all the digital players — Grab, Lazada, Shopee, Zalora, Gawin, Zennya and so forth. Digitalization creates a more democratic environment where the entrepreneur and the consumer can set up a marketplace for products or services. This new economy is inevitable. It is going to happen and those in the brick-and-mortar business will have to accept and embrace it in order to flourish.
Then again, we talked about friendship. What makes a great friendship? Basically, it is trust. You have to learn to trust each other. As nations, we have to learn trust each other. Then we have to learn to help countries that are left behind. In the end, prosperity cannot be just for a few Filipinos or a few nations. Prosperity has to be for all.
I would like to congratulate your chamber for continuing this tradition of celebrating Filipino-Chinese friendship and, of course, our independence as a country. We only have one country. We had many generations of leaders but we never found a perfect leader. We have to believe in the leader we have and we have to support his leadership the best we can because there is no room for the Philippines to fail. And with your business acumen, I am sure that you will all be great entrepreneurs. And as great entrepreneurs thriving in the world that you created, you may find it in your hearts to share, not by giving dole-outs, but by participating in the events that would help small people learn and become inspired. And by God’s grace, the Philippines will definitely be a great nation not just for us here, but also for all Filipinos out there who are wishing for a better life for themselves, their families and loved ones.