Building a more resilient ASEAN

ASEAN Business Advisory Council together with the Asean leaders during their interface held last Nov. 13.

This year, under Singapore’s chairmanship, led by Robert Yap, ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2018 revolved around the theme of “Building Tomorrow, Connecting Today,” which encapsulated ASEAN-BAC’s vision to adopt innovation in building a more resilient ASEAN. It also signifies the organization’s will to take immediate action in working towards ASEAN’s brighter and more competitive future.

I joined one of the forums at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit last Nov. 12, at Marina Bay Sands. Together with Shinta Widjaja Kamdani (Sintesa Group), Tony Cripps (HSBC Singapore), Chia Boon Chong (Singtel) and fellow ASEAN BAC chair Oudet Souvannavong (ASEAN BAC Lao PDR), we focused on the topic: Responsible Business for a Resilient ASEAN. At the forum, we discussed sustainable business practices that could help MSMEs address the challenges and opportunities of the changing global economic climate.

Trade Sec. Ramon Lopez did a great job in explaining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership during his forum with Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Malaysia International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking, who are both quite young. I commend our partner countries in bringing in new and young blood to the government.

Aside from the discussions, the Philippines bagged the most number of awards at the recently concluded ASEAN Business Awards 2018. Eight out of 21 awards were given to our Filipino entrepreneurs and their companies including: Pioneer Adhesives Inc., Seaoil Philippines of Glenn Yu, Jollibee Foods Corp. of Tony Tan Caktiong, International Container Terminal Services Inc. of Enrique Razon, Wilcon Depot of William Belo, CARD MRI of Jaime Alip, and Coffee for Peace of Joji Pantoja. The grand award for family enterprise across ASEAN was given to Century Pacific Foods Inc., led by its founder Ricardo Po Sr. who personally received the award.

We actually had the most number of nominations this year. Through the help of the Go Negosyo team, we were able to send more than 100 nominees out of the 280 total nominees in ASEAN. And with the help of our Pilipinas Angat Lahat Alliance, especially the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, all our efforts to showcase Philippines’ ingenuity and excellence are paying off.

From these achievements, we can see that the momentum in entrepreneurship development is moving at a much faster pace. With the help of the government through Sec. Lopez and the Department of Agriculture with Secretary Manny Piñol, we are moving in the right direction. We still have a long ways to go, but with the continuous support of our alliance of business organizations and chambers, we will succeed.

Yearly, the ASEAN BAC has the opportunity to discuss matters and concerns with the leaders of every member country in ASEAN. I shared with the leaders the efforts of the Philippines legacy project last year, which is the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN).

ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines chairman Joey Concepcion, Century Pacific Food’s executive chairman Chris Po and chairman emeritus Ricardo Po, together with Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad.

ASEAN BAC also recently signed an agreement with Singapore Polytechnic to bring an online entrepreneurship program to universities and colleges across the region. The Philippines will be the first to implement the program which aims to prepare the youth for the fourth industrial revolution. I am sure that this is a game-changer that other countries can also adopt in the future.

Likewise, Vietnam has confirmed to host the next ASEAN Agriculture Summit which the Philippines organized that past two years. We will co-chair it with them. Additionally, Philippines will also launch the ASEAN Tourism Summit in 2019, with Thailand as the co-chair.

AMEN is operating as we had envisioned. Programs are being shared across the region in order to create a stronger network of entrepreneurs that will help our micro, small and medium enterprises scale up.

I want to thank my fellow ASEAN BAC Philippines council members Tessie Sy-Coson and George Barcelon, who, despite their busy schedules, made an effort to be at our events and engagements, both local and international. In addition, Tessie initiated the donation of ASEAN BAC Philippines to Indonesia in response to the recent calamity that hit the country. In my two years serving the council, I understand that the key to ASEAN integration is relationship and trust. Gestures like these will further solidify relationships and build greater trust among countries.

We congratulate Singapore and Robert Yap and his team for successfully hosting ASEAN in their country. As Thailand takes over the chairmanship, we promise to continue to work together with them and seek further assistance on how to boost our tourism and agriculture.

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The Philippine Finalists to the ASEAN Business Awards

The Philippine Finalists for the ASEAN Business Awards 2018 to be held at Singapore in November 12, 2018.

Last year, when we hosted the 50th ASEAN Anniversary, 47 companies and entrepreneurs from the countries in the ASEAN region was brought into spotlight as they were commended under different categories in the ASEAN Business Awards (ABA). This year, as Singapore chairs the ASEAN, ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) will once again recognize companies in the region who have shown exemplary growth and success not only in their countries but also within and beyond the region. Adding to the standard categories is the Family Business Award which aims to recognize outstanding multi-generational family businesses that have sustainable business models and made a significant impact in the ASEAN community.

Since its inception, ABA has become an opportunity for us to showcase Filipino businesses that have navigated their way to success thus becoming significant partners and contributors to regional prosperity.

Last October 18, alongside the gala dinner of the Philippine Business Conference and Expo of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ASEAN BAC Philippines named the 2018 Philippine Finalists to the ABA 2018!

Our country will be proudly sending finalists – all of whom have passed the stringent criteria of ABA – to Marina Bay Sands in Singapore for the highly-anticipated awards night that will happen in the 12th of November. I wish to congratulate them in advance as they all deserved to win the awards. Watch out for the 2018 ASEAN Business Awardees!

ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines Chair Joey Concepcion.

 

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Alegria Limjoco.

 

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines Member Georger Barcelon.

PCCI Chair George Barcelon, PCCI President Bing Limjoco, and ASEAN BAC PH Chair Joey Concepcion together with Jaime Aristotle Alip Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) Inc., Evelyn Lao-Yap of Benby Enterprises, and Leandro Antonio Leviste of Solar Philippines.

 

Evelyn Lao-Yap of Benby Enterprises, Philippine finalist for Women Entrepreneur category.

 

Leandro Antonio Leviste of the Solar Philippines, Philippine finalist for Young Entrepreneur category.

 

ASEAN Priority Sectors category finalists: Jollibee Foods Corporation (Food and Beverage) represented by Joseph Tanbuntiong; International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (Logistics) represented by Arthur Tabuena; Pioneer Adhesives Inc. (Automotive) represented by Edwin Avillon; Wilcon Depot, Inc. (Retail) represented by William Belo; and Seaoil Philippines, Inc. (Transformed Energy) with Glenn Yu.

 

Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) Inc., Philippine finalist for Sustainable Social Enterprise. Receiving the award is Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip.

 

Century Pacific Foods, Inc. named as the Philippine finalist for Family Business category. Chris Po received the award for the company.

 

Our Philippine Finalists for SME Excellence Awards: Coffee for Peace Inc. represented by Philippines Judge to ABA Atty. Dick Du-Baladad,;Philippine Utility Vehicles, Inc. represented by Rommel Juan; Santos Knight Frank, Inc. represented by Milette Gaurino; and Cinco Corporation of Jose Magsaysay Jr.

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Mentorship is Important

In photo (from left): Jeff Hoffman together with the Go Negosyo entrepreneurs and mentors. (L-R) Rey Lapid, Richard Sanz, Rex Daryanani, Mylene Abiva, Grace Tiongco, Marissa Concepcion, Isabella, Jeff Hoffman, Joey Concepcion, Rose Ong, Emma Imperial, Ginggay Hontiveros, Myrna Yao, Cherrie Atilano, Sandy Montano.

Last Oct. 7, we invited Jeff Hoffman, the man behind the immensely successful travel booking websites: Priceline.com, Booking.com and Agoda.com to come talk to our mentors. He’s also the genius behind the check-in kiosks at the airports. He had developed these after missing a flight due to the long lines at the check-in counters.

I first met Jeff in Thailand last Sept. 20 when I attended the conference of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Thailand. After talking to him, I knew that we needed to invite him to the Philippines and have him share some of his thoughts in helping our micro, small and medium enterprises.

He joined us for an intimate forum.  Though it was a Sunday, more than 200 entrepreneurs attended, and all were inspired and encouraged to take part in the greater entrepreneurial vision.

During the talk, Jeff clarified that he wanted to widen the definition of “entrepreneurship” as many associate the word simply with technology, leaving out other important industries such as agriculture. “Entrepreneurship is not about the business and is not about the money. I want to (redefine) it to ‘self-determination.’ Entrepreneurship is your opportunity to design your future – the future of the city, the region, your country.”

More than being visionaries or dreamers, he said, “Entrepreneurs are the ones busy building the world the way they think it should look like and envision.” As we have always said at Go Negosyo, entrepreneurs are problem-solvers. We look at a problem and we think of possible solutions for that certain concern.

Jeff underscores the main priorities of the Go Negosyo community: “First, we have to create more entrepreneurs. Second, we have to ensure that they will stay here in the Philippines and build the things here. And lastly, we need to create a stronger network of entrepreneurs and help other MSMEs succeed. I genuinely believe that these three are critically important to the entire business community, most especially to the micro and small entrepreneurs of the country.”

Let me share with you some of the other points made by Jeff that really made an impact on all of us who were present during his talk.

Focus on the problem; find a solution. As Jeff had mentioned, good entrepreneurs are problem-solvers and they are focused on finding the solutions. “It’s not about the company, it’s not about being an entrepreneur, it’s about solving a problem,” Jeff says. The serial entrepreneur recalls a time when he was approached by an investor while he was in the middle of product development. They were asking him about paperwork and patents and other business stuff, but Jeff didn’t want to be distracted. “I wanted to build this thing first.” So you see his focus and determination in creating the solution.

Another point that I wanted to share, which we all learned from Jeff, is “Don’t chase money. Chase excellence.” He shared that entrepreneurs should focus on building something of quality, and money will follow. “Once people become distracted by money, they will and can never create something excellent.”

I was also delighted to have Jeff discuss the 3Ms model (market, money and mentorship), which Go Negosyo advocates.

On market, Jeff shared the importance of having a clear brand. “Branding is different from marketing. A brand is a personality. It is a way of life… A brand is bigger than your marketing and is the tipping point of scale.” Indeed, there are so many good products in the world, but not everyone knows about them because they don’t have a clear brand image. He related his story when they started one of their companies. After visiting a lot of hotels to sign up with their company, he received a call from a certain hotel, which they never pitched to. Because of their clear branding on who they are and what they wanted to do, hotels knew exactly how his company could help them. Soon, more and more hotels and resorts signed up with them.

Another common problem of our entrepreneurs is funding. This is why many of our entrepreneurs have not been able to scale up. Jeff explained that in order to receive funding, an entrepreneur must highlight the company’s significant milestones. Instead of just asking for financial assistance, entrepreneurs must know how to manage these funds in order to reach more milestones. In addition, he said, “You should segment investors the same way you do your customers. Find the investor who is most likely to give you money.” Know who to pitch to, impress them with your accomplishments, and plan how you’ll manage your investment.

Lastly, and I think the most important part of his talk, was when Jeff highlighted the importance of mentorship. He said, “The most valuable thing you can give is not money. Entrepreneurs need funding, but funding without mentorship is wasted money. Human capital is most important.”  I truly believe in this tenet, and have pushed for mentorship in our programs. I know that the most successful entrepreneurs, if not all, have found success, because they had/have someone to guide them through the journey. Jeff adds, “Pick a mentor by finding somebody in the world that you wanna be like.”

It is true that the power of money, market and, most especially, mentorship can help define an entrepreneur’s future. Success takes time, but if everyone worked together as one, we can all achieve our long-term goals.

I am glad to have hosted this forum with Jeff Hoffman, and am happy that all attendees left with greater appreciation and wisdom. I believe that even successful entrepreneurs need to be reminded of the key tenets of entrepreneurship. Moving forward, I will make sure to include more talks of this kind, with successful and inspiring entrepreneurs who understand the greater need for mentorship.

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To Inspire and Mentor

PA Joey Concepcion together with Jenny Blancaflor, a micro agri-preneur who attended the free one-on-one mentoring session of Go Negosyo in General Santos City.

Last Monday in General Santos City,  as entrepreneurship adviser to the President and vice chair of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Council,  I attended the Money and Market Encounter supported by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Go Negosyo.

It was a very well attended event, gathering more than 200 region 12 graduate-mentees of the Kapatid Mentor ME Program (KMME) and Kapatid Agri Mentor ME Program (KAMMP).

In my speech, I shared: ‘’From my 13 years of helping micro entrepreneurs in the country, poverty has been the greatest motivator. I cannot assure that all of you will succeed, but from those who are fighting and surviving, we at Go Negosyo will do what we can to give you the right tools to be sustainable.

“With the right mindset and level of creativity and innovation, most of you will shine and persevere in the business community. The government, with the help of DTI, Go Negosyo, and the private sector,  will be here to mentor you especially in areas on how to use and source money to grow your business and on how to reach more markets for your products and services.

“Through hard work and persistence and, of course, prayers, you all will have the chance to make it. Mentorship will not stop at this event. We have an online application, which you can use to get help from our mentors. We will set up a Facebook community  as well of mentees where you can ask mentors for answers.”

I also invited the group to take part in the free one-on-one mentoring session called Mentor Me on Wheels (MMOW), which was being held in SM General Santos, a mere 500 meters away from the venue.

We then proceeded to the MMOW where I was surprised to see more than 600 mentees all lined up for a chance to be mentored by our 70 mentor-entrepreneurs. Before I flew to Cebu that afternoon, I was able to meet five promising entrepreneurs. Let me share with you some of their stories.

One of my mentees was Jenny Blancaflor who works as an offsite operations manager and head of customer happiness department for five years at a digital publishing powerhouse company based in Australia. Due to an unfortunate event last May, she decided to quit her job and attend to the needs of her daughter who has a health condition. Her daughter needs healthy food, which led her to venture into organic farming and poultry. This was when Aianah’s Little by Little Farm was born. As a start-up agri-preneur, she needed funding in order to scale up. Like many other micro-entrepreneurs we have met along the way, funding is one of the most common challenges that hinder their growth. I saw the potential of the business that is why I immediately linked her to financial institutions, which can provide her assistance.

Raymund Elicano produces home interior decorations made of strings. He was also mentored by PA Joey Concepcion.

It was a very fortunate event for another micro-entrepreneur and craftsman Raymund Elicano who was selected as one of my mentees. He honestly did not know about our mentorship program, but was urged by fellow artists to register and try his luck. He, indeed, was lucky as he was handpicked from the crowd. He is a merchandiser for a local brand in General Santos City. At night, he works on his interior decoration crafts which are made from strings and yarns. In order to reach more customers, he plans to formalize the business by registering with the DTI. He also plans to attend an exhibit to be held on the last week of October in Isabela, Cagayan Valley.

Based on our discussion, I saw the passion in his eyes. I mentioned to him that we will shoulder his airfare going to Isabela. I also called my wife, Marissa, who also has an eye for crafts to take a look at Raymund’s work and mentor him. We also linked him to Macky Bongabong, the portrait painter of the President, to guide him. He was extremely happy and could not hold back his emotions.

As serial entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman said during our short forum last week, among the three Ms (money, market and mentorship), mentorship is the most powerful thing. Mentoring the attendees was indeed touching. Knowing their stories, struggles and how they keep themselves motivated gives me inspiration to continue with our revolution. I know that we still have a long way to go, but as more and more entrepreneur-mentors join us on this mission, I am certain that we can help Filipinos scale up and find greater success.

This has always been the goal of Go Negosyo – to inspire and mentor Filipinos and achieve prosperity for all.

 

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Why Agri is a Game Changer

ASEAN BAC Philippines Chair Joey Concepcion delivered his message during the ASEAN Agriculture Summit 2018.

The first week of October has been maximized by highlighting the potential of agriculture in our country and across ASEAN.

Last October 1, with more than 50 speakers from all over the world who joined in the discussion of uplifting the agriculture sector,  ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) Philippines, together with Go Negosyo and the Department of Agriculture (DA) Philippines, successfully organized the biggest ASEAN Agriculture Summit at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.

We are lucky to hear from Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol who specifically flew in from abroad to give updates in our agriculture sector. We also have my  ASEAN BAC co-chairs and members, and other agriculture champions as guests.

We have also recognized outstanding agribusinesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators who have shown exceptional feats and sterling achievements and have become an inspiration to others in the agriculture industry during the first AGROW awards.

With our current issues and concerns on agriculture, the summit has provided us with solutions that hopefully can solve the situation. Agri is indeed a game changer.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Philippines Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol shared the status of the agriculture in the country.

2018 ASEAN BAC Chair Dr. Robert Yap shared his message on bridging the gap between smart cities and smart agriculture.

FORUM 1: Shaping the Future of Food Security and Agriculture featured ASEAN Business Advisory Council Chairs and Members Dr. Robert Yap (Singapore), Oknha Sok Piseth (Cambodia), Anangga Roosdiono (Indonesia), Oudet Souvannavong (Lao PDR), George Barcelon (Philippines), Arin Jira (Thailand), and Dr. Doan Duy Khuong (Vietnam). The forum was moderated by Prof. Rolando Dy. Also in photo are Sec. Manny Pinol and PA Joey Concepcion.

FORUM 2: 3Ms Model as Championed in the Agriculture Industry featured the Golden AGROW Awardees such as Choo Jun Lee (Brunei), Saran Song (Cambodia), Rudy Brigianto (Indonesia), Souphayvanh Thiengchanhxay (Lao PDR), Samuel The Sar Moh Nee (Malaysia), Thadoe Hein (Myanmar), Sunny Verges (Singapore), Paphavee Suthavivat (Thailand), and Tran Hoang An (Vietnam). They were joined by Gisela Tiongson of Jollibee Group Foundation and Alberto Bacani of Unifrutti Tropical Philippines. The forum was moderated by Mr. Bill Luz.

FORUM 3: Technology and Innovation as Game Changers in Agriculture featured Justo Ortiz (Philippines), Kobi Azriel (Israel), Rei Yoon (Canada), Adrian Soe Mint (Myanmar), Julius Barcelona (Philippines), Tark Bartlett (Philippines) and Manop Kaewkoi (Thailand). The forum was moderated by Amor Maclang.

FORUM 4: Inclusive Finance for Agribusiness presented Dave Harishkumar Rasiklal (India), Simon Bakker (Philippines), Dep. Gov. Chuchi Fonacier (Philippines), Anthony Thomas (Philippines), Lito Villanueva (Philippines), Malikkhan Kotadia (Singapore) and Indradi Soemardjan (Indonesia). The forum was moderated by Josephine Romero.

FORUM 5: Platforms and Opportunities in Growing Agriculture Market Access featured Youngsang Cho (South Korea), Thirukumaran Nagarajan (Australia), Roberto Amores (Philippines), Cherrie Atilano (Philippines) and Nicolo Absrasturi (Philippines). The forum was moderated by Quintin Pastrana.

Presentation of the Agri Tech-Up Hackathon winners led by Unionbank’s Justo Ortiz.

Bagging specials awards were Cherrie De Erit Atilano, Young Agripreneur award; Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative for Inspiring Cooperative Award; SL Agritech Corporation for Groundbreaker Award; FINTQnologies for Financial Inclusivity Award; and Jollibee Foods Corporation for the Inclusive Business award.

The Golden AGROW Awardees: Huang Ho Agricultural Farm (Brunei), Amru Rice Co., Ltd (Cambodia), GarudaFood (Indonesia), Burapha Agroforestry Co., Ltd.(Laos), Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (Malaysia), Myanma Awba Group Co., Ltd (Myanmar), SL Agritech Corp. (Philippines), Olam International Ltd. (Singapore), Swift Co., Ltd. (Thailand), and ITA Rice Fragrant Rice Research & Export Corp. (Vietnam).

MVP Group of Companies President Manny V. Pangilinan and FICCI President Rex Daryanani.

Interactive forum. Delegates also had a chance to ask a question during the forum. In photo is Mr. Michael Escaler.

ASEAN BAC Thailand Chair Arin Jira, panelist from forum one discussed active private sector engagement in addressing trade facilitation.

DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol with Deputy Managing Director of NABARD India Dave Harishkumar Rasiklal.

ASEAN BAC Philippines Chair Joey Concepcion together with Tutti Roosdiono, Philippine Chamber of Commerce Industry Chair George Barcelon and 2018 ASEAN BAC Chair Dr. Robert Yap.

2018 ASEAN BAC Chair Dr. Robert Yap, MVP Group of Companies President Manny V. Pangilinan and Philippine Chamber of Commerce Industry Chair George Barcelon.

Deputy Managing Director of NABARD India Dave Harishkumar Rasiklal talked about inclusive finance for agribusinesses.

CEO of Mynt Philippines Anthony Thomas on fintech platforms shaping financial inclusivity in the digital age of economy.

MVP Group of Companies President Manny V. Pangilinan, President and COO of LT Group of Companies Michael Tan and PA Joey Concepcion.

Golden AGROW Award presenters: (L-R) ASEAN BAC PH Council Members George Barcelon and Tessie Sy-Coson, ASEAN BAC PH Chair Joey Concepcion, and DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.

PA Joey Concepcion and DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.

CEO Of Soil and Soul Inc. Rei Yoon presented data on agri-technology and innovation.

Go Negosyo Adviser on Agripreneurship Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar led the ASEAN Agriculture Summit 2018 as program chair.

Anthony Pangilinan hosted the biggest agriculture summit this year.

 

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RFM Celebrates 60 Years of Market Leadership

RFM Corporation Celebratres 60th Anniversary.

If RFM was a real person, then she/he would be qualified for a senior citizen discount as she/he celebrates 60 years.

I was born the same year as Republic Flour Mills (RFM) was established, and I remember seeing my baby picture (dressed as a young baker) on the walls of our office. My father had posted it there, perhaps foreseeing the future wherein I would be leading the company 60 years later.

Looking at it now, God has indeed blessed me with a fulfilling role. Just over the weekend, I had invited Jeff Hoffman – co-founder of Priceline.com, booking.com, and agoda.com, among others – to speak to more than 200 Go Negosyo mentors. He gave an inspiring message that espoused the advocacy of Go Negosyo and which highlighted the importance of the 3Ms (mentorship, money and market) model, which we use in helping entrepreneurs.

When it comes to the three, I believe mentorship is of the highest priority because it ensures the continuation of success. We achieve greater things through mentorship as we build on what has already been established.

My grandfather, Dr. Salvador Araneta, started it all for RFM and we are now challenged to build on his legacy. I, especially named after him, have always taken great pride in living up to his name.

My grandfather started the company by building a flour mill on a seven-hectare property, along Pasig River. He was a relentless advocate of the “Filipino First” policy, prioritizing Filipino businesses over foreign investors and entrepreneurs. During his leadership, RFM was able to meet the demands of the Filipino appetite and grew the company to include the manufacturing of margarine and cooking oil, before diversifying to poultry and hog feeds.

Aside from leading the pioneer flour-milling company, my grandfather was also a member of the Philippine Constitutional Convention and the founder and twice president of the Philippine Constitution Association. He also served in several Cabinet positions including secretary of economic coordination under former president Elpidio Quirino, secretary of agriculture under former president Ramon Magsaysay, and was a member of the National Economic Council. He was a man of integrity and vision as he pushed for the industrialization of the Philippines.

Years after, my father, Jose Concepcion Jr., took over the company and brought it to a new level of excellence. His leadership led to the establishment of many partnerships with foreign companies. The company also started exporting within the Southeast Asian region to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

My father, known to many as JoeCon, was a proud nationalist, and he expressed his love for country by fighting the dictatorship and protecting the democratic institution. He stayed and fought even when our family was threatened, and when almost all our relatives flew abroad for safety.

He stayed and established the Pasay Citizens League for Good Government and National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL). “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – his battle cry for all his civic engagements. He called on all Filipinos to head to the voting booths and to defend their ballots at all cost. And thanks to his tireless work and commitment, a clean and honest election was achieved and a peaceful revolution was assured.

The fight for a better Philippines did not stop, rather it only intensified when my father joined the government and became the trade and industry secretary. It was under his leadership that the People Economic Council was established, the PEC was intended to benefit micro and small entrepreneurs.

As he focused on serving the country, it was at this time that I took over as president and CEO of RFM Corporation.

During the transition, we started buying brands like Cosmos Bottling Co. and Selecta ice cream, among others. Through the years, RFM adapted, evolved, and grew stronger. We faced major crises, including the Asian Financial Crisis and the US banking crisis, which we fortunately survived with more lessons learned and wisdom gained.

I was happy to lead the company and steer it through its different phases of growth., I never thought that I would be involved in any form of civic or advocacy work. My focus was on building RFM to become  a giant in the food and beverage industry.

That was until 2005, when the president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approached me and asked if I could come onboard as adviser for entrepreneurship.  This, in turn, led me to start Go Negosyo.

I was invited again two years ago by President Duterte to be trade secretary. But I could not relinquish my role in our corporation. It was good that the President accepted Go Negosyo’s executive director Ramon Lopez as his trade secretary. Mon had worked with my father during his DTI days and had been with the RFM Corporation as one of the top executives for more than 20 years. I felt that he was the most prepared to take on the job and eventually help champion the MSME development advocacy. He is doing great work today!

I believe mentorship is, indeed, the reason for all our success. Jeff Hoffman agrees. We should look at the opportunities – more so the challenges – as blessings because these help us grow and evolve, and become better mentors to the next generation.

As RFM celebrates its 60th anniversary, we take the time to reflect not only on the leaders and visionaries like my father and grandfather who paved the way for us to succeed, but also on our greater vision and purpose, which is to “influence positive change and provide affordable, quality goods to the Filipino people.”

RFM has stood the test of time, and we thank all those who have helped us get this far in our journey. And now, we ask you for your continued support as we take on the next 60 years.

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