Angat Lahat sa Digital Alliance Meeting

PA Joey Concepcion led the Angat Lahat sa Digital Alliance Meeting last May 21, 2019 at the Manila Polo Club. Digital players and other stakeholders of the digital startup ecosystem also attended the meeting that discussed how to influence and educate more Filipinos about digitalization as a way to achieve inclusive growth with MSMEs.


About a year ago, we convened meetings on digitalization. It was attended by relevant stakeholders of the digital ecosystem to get the message across in terms of the tremendous impact of embracing digitalization. I believe that it is the way forward and the key to achieving inclusive growth in the country. This is why, as the presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, my office has been organizing a series of high-level dialogues and consultation meetings to provide an avenue for the players and enablers to raise their concerns, as well as recommendations, in pushing for digitalization in the country.

A side note, during our meeting with President Duterte last April 3, the three pillars (tourism, agriculture, and digitalization) for a more inclusive economy were presented. This is where we are putting our efforts. The tourism summit last May 2, clearly pointed the need to build and modernize our airports which are already happening in Cebu, Bohol, and Clark. The recent NAIA proposal is now up for approval of the National Economic and Development Authority. The full impact of these projects will be felt toward the end of the President’s term, but as this happens, entrepreneurs will begin to invest in these areas through hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast and other businesses.

Going back, last May 20, we gathered more than 30 digital platform brands for the Angat Lahat sa Digital Alliance Meeting. The idea is to form a private-sector led group composed of digital platforms to work closely with the government in influencing and educating more Filipinos about the impact and opportunities of digitalization especially to our MSMEs (micro, small and medium entrepreneurs). The meeting was called to form the alliance and send a strong message of support to the government from the private sector in creating a more enabling environment for digital entrepreneurs to thrive. The alliance will work on creating a roadmap to move the Philippines forward in terms of digital transformation.

One of the main agenda of the discussion is the creation of an intensive information campaign and talk to the common folks- the sari-sari store and carinderia owners, the habal-habal drivers, the masahistas, and all the entrepreneurs in the informal economy- to raise awareness about the different digital platforms and opportunities that they can take advantage of. The goal is to bring about 70 million to 80 million Filipinos to be part of the growing digital economy.

We also shared to the group the initiative we have started on digitalizing the sari-sari stores which we are initially working with Lendr, Mynt and FMCG companies equipping sari-sari store owners with tools and resources so they can access mobile payments and financial services to help them increase their credit-worthiness using transactional data.

But there are still a lot of things to be done and improved on. Concerns were raised during the discussion. One of them is the regulation efficiency from the side of the enablers. Ray Alimurong of Lazada Philippines mentioned that at some point, the digital platforms do not know which national agency governs them. During the crafting of the E-commerce Roadmap of 2016-2020, platforms like Lazada and Zalora were not consulted. Brian Cu of Grab also emphasized the need for sandboxes to allow the platforms to continue innovating and experimenting with what will benefit society.

While the private sector has its own concerns, Pia Tayag from BSP also asked the help of the private sector in making a push from the side of entrepreneurs to have transactional accounts in tandem with the efforts of the government’s National Retail Payment System (NRPS) framework thus creating increased efficiencies and access to financial services for both the consumers and businesses.

Director Senen Perlada of DTI also agreed that moving forward, the group must be part of the consultation especially in the creation of the new E-Commerce Roadmap, after the previous one expires, for additional valuable inputs.

The desire to go forward is evident with the players in the industry, but it is a matter of getting them organized. Platforms shared what each is respectively doing to bring in more entrepreneurs into the digital economy. To create a greater impact for more Filipinos, the alliance hopes to collaboratively work on programs instead of doing things on their own. My office will take the lead in documenting and consolidating the pro-poor programs and initiatives of the digital platforms to be presented to President Duterte in August. We plan to invite the beneficiaries of the platforms to present to our enablers the impact of their platforms on the lives of micro-entrepreneurs and get their continued support.

Aside from the event with the President, we are also planning for a bigger activity in October to officially launch the alliance.

We always anchor our programs and initiatives on the 3Ms of MSME development (mentorship, money, and market). We have been going full blast and nationwide in implementing offline mentorship programs in partnership with the Departments of Trade and Industry, of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. With the Mentor Me App, we are integrating online mentorship which will eventually become a portal to access the basic curriculum on mentorship and coherently have access to the training of partner digital platforms providing greater access to mentorship for people who want to become digital entrepreneurs.


Our Islands are our Treasures

PA Joey Concepcion together with Hans Sy, Eric Yu, Chris Chilip, Rikki Dee, Haresh Hiranand, Mikey Cojuangco, John Concepcion, Manuel Igual, and their wives in Discovery Club Paradise.


Right after our Tourism Summit, I took some of my friends who are entrepreneurs, and their families, to explore the Philippine islands so that they could see first-hand the unique potential of our tourism industry.

Every summer, for the past 20 years, I have taken my family to new destinations around the archipelago. Last year, we explored Coron, Palawan. This year, we headed to Busuanga, Palawan, which is just beside Coron. The airport is conveniently situated in Busuanga, and there are plans to turning it into an international airport by extending the runway. This year, Club Paradise – now owned by the Discovery Group – served as our base. This is one of the best resorts, in my opinion, in the area. It has one of the best beaches, with amazing coral formations and exciting marine life – from baby sharks, stingrays, and turtles!

Our guests, Hans and Carol Sy, could not believe the beauty of the place. They were amazed that at exactly 6:30 in the evening, thousands of fruit bats come out and fly to the mainland, returning at dawn the next day. This was something Boracay experienced in its early years.

Getting Hans and my busy entrepreneur friends out of their comfort zone was a bit of a challenge, but they could not refuse the call and allure of the crystal-clear waters. They spent a good hour enjoying themselves out in nature.

While touring us around the town, our driver told us that the community was doing well thanks to the many tourists from China, Korea, and Europe. This is great news considering that the current airport is not yet up to standards. Hopefully, with the plans to upgrade it, there will be more hotels, hostels, and other accommodations that will be established as well.

As raised in our recent Tourism Summit 2019, we can empower locals to become entrepreneurs. Just like how Airbnb has provided thousands of choices for every traveler, depending on their preferences, many people can turn their houses, vacation homes, and resorts into businesses. But while smaller bed and breakfast accommodations are a great ‘disruptor’ and offer greater opportunity for business growth, both Arthur Lopez from the Philippine Hotel Owners Association and Oudet Souvannavong of ASEAN BAC Laos agreed that there must regulation to ensure the safety of every tourist.

Aside from accommodations, another important part of the tourism industry are the attractions and activities which can convince tourists to come back. Providing a whole and complete vacation experience to travelers is important. Tourists will more likely return to a place if the experience and services are stellar. Aside from the natural attractions, activities also contribute to the growth of an area. For example, Palawan has beautiful beaches and rich coral reefs, which is why it offers scuba diving, snorkeling, and island-hopping. Even Boracay has different water activities, perfect for any age group.

Family and friends enjoy the giraffes of Calauit Safari Park.

Tourism is the most inclusive sector as it also helps boost other industries such as medical/ beauty tourism, culinary tourism, and agri-tourism, among others. While we have existing businesses related to these industries, we have not promoted them well to the global market. For example, Thailand is known not just for its stunning beaches and culture, but also for its medical tourism. Many tourists travel to Thailand for body enhancements and cosmetic surgery. Perhaps, by working closely with our skilled doctors and medical associations, we can also build and highlight this industry.

Restaurateur Gaita Fores had shared how our culinary tourism is attracting visitors from abroad. She said, “It is actually a real blessed time for us, because food tourism has become infectious globally.” According to her, it’s important to know what is trending among the younger generation, and match their excitement with new offerings.

These are some of the great points raised during the summit. We all learned that tourism is, in fact, a great driver of the economy. That is why we all need to work harder together and create an economy that would welcome every entrepreneur and contribute to the booming tourism industry.


Pushing for Sustainable Tourism

PA Joey Concepcion (7th from left) together with forum speakers and interveners, (from left) Steve Cheah, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, former Ambassador Delia Domingo-Albert, Jaime Bautista, Alexander Lao, Arin Jira, Regina Lopez, Brian Cu, Karen Davila and Tourism Usec. Benito Bengzon Jr.


Tourism is a great platform for inclusivity. This was proven in the recent Tourism Summit 2019 which we hosted together with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) Philippines, Department of Tourism (DOT), Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), and other business organizations.

The first tourism summit that we organized last week gathered more than 10,000 participants both onsite and online. Through our online streaming, around 40 schools participated together with their own group of delegates.

The summit also gathered tourism experts from different ASEAN countries who shared insights on how we can develop our tourism industry. We were fortunate to have more than 20 ambassadors, representatives of local government units, and Go Negosyo mentors and entrepreneurs.

In my speech, I shared how important it is to boost our tourism through the collaboration of private and public sectors. As our country moves closer to an investment grade rating of triple A, it is not impossible to see that the Philippines will come close to Thailand’s 38 million tourists annually. I know that it is a long shot, but if we work together to create the infrastructure that is needed to propel connectivity, we can hopefully achieve it in the next years.

The Philippines has so much potential, but we have to protect our assets – our islands, culture, and heritage, in order to attract more tourists. Sustainable tourism is the key to growing business models while conserving our island assets.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat highlighted the need for connectivity. She said the DOT is working closely with the Department of Transportation in developing ports that tourists can use to connect from island to island. “With better airports, seaports, and roads, we do not only bring in local and international tourists to these destinations, but we also provide rural areas with improved transportation, access to goods, employment opportunities and livelihood.

Sec. Puyat also introduced agri-tourism or farm tourism which is a booming trend in the tourism sector. It opens a new perspective in inclusive and sustainable agriculture and rural development.

“Sustainable tourism is at the core of development principle of the Department of Tourism. We welcome all and invite everyone to invest in our economic potential, but we cannot accept progress without the inclusive development of our stakeholders. It is the only way we can truly create quality destinations in the region,” she said.

We had a great discussion during the summit through the forums which featured the 5As of tourism (arrival, access, accommodation, activities, and attractions). Our first forum dealt with the infrastructure requirements to assist arrivals in the country. Together with Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (Ayala Corp.), Jaime Bautista (Philippine Airlines), Alexander Lao (CebGo), Arin Jira (ASEAN BAC), Usec. Benito Bengzon (DOT), and Gina Lopez (Investments in Loving Organizations for Village Economies), they discussed how airlines, government, and other stakeholders are creating the needed projects for connectivity. Since we are an archipelago, the challenge lies in connecting our islands, so aside from roads and bridges, we rely heavily on air access, thus the need for airport infrastructure to accommodate the tourists.

Jaime Zobel raised the need to “upgrade the whole airport system throughout the country, not just the international airport in Manila.” He said that it is important to make regional airports meet international standards and allow people to fly directly to all parts of the country. This recommendation was supported by the other panelists.

The second forum focused on inter-island connectivity. Together with the panelists – Edgar Saavedra (Megawide), Venus Tan (TPB), Gov. Jose Alvarez (Palawan), Pocholo Paragas (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority), George Barcelon (Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry), and Dato Mohmed Razip Hasan (Malaysia Tourism Promotions Board), they discussed the need to build a greater network of routes through additional highways, roads and other means of transportation which tourists can use in exploring one island at a time and promoting a more accessible and connected ASEAN region.

Dato Razip said that in order to attract more tourists, we must also look at the products and services in a destination in order to draw in more tourists. This is another perspective in which we can focus on the businesses the destinations can offer. We can highlight the entrepreneurs and their businesses in order to attract more tourists.

Complementation, as Venus Tan said, is key to making ASEAN a major tourist bloc. She said, “I think we should all complement one another and work on the strength of the Philippines rather than look at the competition.” She also stressed the need to create “immersive and experiential destination” which means interacting with people, its culture, and heritage.

Governor Alvarez proudly invited everyone to Palawan as they are building a highway from Manila to Batangas, to Mindoro, then to Coron! This is a great milestone in linking our islands. Imagine, you can drive your car to reach the province of Palawan! This is a great way of linking our islands and making it accessible to all.

This was just the first part of the discussion. There were more valuable conversations throughout the summit that I will like to share in my next column. Our panelists and interveners all had suggestions on policies, infrastructure, and projects in order to attain sustainable island tourism not just in our country, but also in ASEAN.

To view Tourism Summit 2019 photos, Click here.


The 5’A’s of Tourism

IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES! Go Negosyo and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines, in partnership with the Department of Tourism and Tourism Promotions Board, supported by the business chambers and organizations, successfully hosted the first Tourism Summit 2019 that happened May 2, 2019, at the World Trade Center, Pasay City! Participated by more than 10,000 delegates composed of students from 100 schools and universities, government representatives from around 100 cities and municipalities, ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, more than 50 local and international speakers, government and private partners, and entrepreneurs. In photo (front L-R) Michael Tan (Asia Brewery), Former Amb. Fred Yao, George Barcelon (PCCI), Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (Ayala Corporation), Jaime Bautista (Philippine Airlines), Arin Jira (ASEAN BAC Thailand), Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (DOT), Amb. Sung Kim (USA), Amb. Gerard Ho Wei Hong (Singapore), Amb. Daniel Pruce (Britain), Amb. Koji Haneda (Japan), and other distinguished guests.

Last May 2, Go Negosyo and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines, in partnership with the Department of Tourism and Tourism Promotions Board  and supported by business chambers and organizations, successfully hosted the first Tourism Summit 2019 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City.

Participated in by more than 10,000 delegates (online and onsite), the summit was attended by local and international speakers, government enablers and partners, entrepreneurs, business and tourism students, and other members of the academe.

The summit featured five forums with an insightful discussion on how to improve the tourism industry through different development programs for the five “A”s of tourism: arrival, access, accommodations, attractions, and activities.

The discussion among the panelists and interveners extracted valuable recommendations on policies and programs that can be done to improve the industry. A fireside chat with AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes also provided inspiration to students and aspiring entrepreneurs.

I believe the tourism sector is the most inclusive sector, that is why we created this summit in order to showcase different business models for our aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. This summit served as a great platform for discussion and reflection on what other ASEAN countries have done to improve their development of sustainable island tourism, which the Philippines can learn from.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship, ASEAN Business Advisory Council PH Chair and Go Negosyo Founder Joey Concepcion shared his warm welcome to the participants and stressed the importance of Tourism, Agri-business, and Digitalization as pillars for inclusive growth.


Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat shared significant milestones of the tourism industry to the participants of this year’s biggest summit on tourism and entrepreneurship.


Speakers Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman & CEO, Ayala Corporation; Jaime Bautista, President and COO, Philippine Airlines; Alexander Lao, President and CEO, Cebgo, Inc.; Regina Lopez, Chairman and Founder, ILOVE (Investments in Loving Organizations for Village Economies) Foundation; and Arin Jira, Chairman, ASEAN Business Advisory Council and Usec. Benito Bengzon Jr., Undersecretary for Tourism and Development Planning, Department of Tourism led forum one entitled Opening Up Land, Sea, and Sky for Global Tourism. The forum was moderated by Karen Davila.


The second forum entitled Discovering the Different Island Beats was presented by panelists such as Edgar Saavedra, Chairman and CEO, Megawide Construction Corporation; Marie Venus Tan, COO, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines; Gov. Jose Chaves Alvarez, Provincial Governor of Palawan; Pocholo Paragas, COO, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA); George Barcelon, Chair of Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Council Member of ASEAN BAC Philippines; and Dato’ Mohmed Razip Hasan, Deputy Director General (Promotions), Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board. The forum was moderated by Issa Litton.


Forum three entitled Where Tourists Stay featured panelists were Oudet Souvannavong, Chair, ASEAN-BAC Laos; Arthur Lopez, President, Philippine Hotel Owners Association and Owner, AML Hotel Consultancy; Kemariah Duraman, Owner, Kunyit 7 Lodge; U Thet Lwin Toh, Chairman, Myanmar Travel Association; Rafael Dionisio, Co-Founder, Circle Hostel and MAD Travel; and Jami (Tran Viet Thang) Trek, Founder, ASIO Travel Group and Xper. The forum was moderated by Sam YG.


Forum four entitled So Much to Do, So Much to See, So We Make Time. Panelists were Jay Montonn Jira, Co-founder, Wonderfruit; Cesar Mario Mamon, Chairman and President, Enchanted Kingdom Inc.; Aileen Clemente, Chairman and President, Rajah Travel Corp.; Chenda Clais, Owner and CEO, Terres Rouges Collection; Inthy Deuansavanh, CEO, Green Discovery; Shu Tan, Founder & Director, The Sapa O’Chau Project; and Rex Victor Puentespina, Managing Director, Malagos Agri-Ventures Corp, together with PA Joey Concepcion, Tony Fernandes of AirAsia and Secretary Salvador Panelo. The forum moderated was Kim Atienza.


Samie Lim, Director of Tourism, Retail and Franchise of PCCI, Dr. Vicky Belo, President and Medical Director, Belo Medical Group; Maria Margarita Moran-Floirendo, Chairman, Cultural Center of the Philippines; Jose Mari Del Rosario, President and Chief Executive, Phinma Microtel Hotels; Anangga Roosdiono, Chair, ASEAN BAC Indonesia; and Chef Margarita “Gaita” Fores, CEO and President, Cibo as they discussed lessons in keeping up the business in forum five.


Stimulating fireside chat between Tan Sri Anthony “Tony” Fernandes, Group CEO of AirAsia and TV Broadcaster Korina Sanchez-Roxas.


Lucky day. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes gave away three (3) airline tickets to the lucky participants of the summit.


Amb. Daniel Pruce (Britain), Amb. Harald Fries (Sweden), Amb. John Holmes (Canada), Ms. Urawadee Sriphiromya (Thailand) and Amb. Jaideep Mazumdar (India).


Ambassadors from close to 20 countries graced the Tourism Summit 2019.


Steve Cheah of Global Entrepreneurship Network, Brian Cu of Grab Philippines and Amb. Delia Albert.


PA Joey Concepcion together with Tony Fernandes of AirAsia, Secretary Salvador Panelo, and ASEAN BAC Chair Arin Jira.


(L-R) Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman & CEO, Ayala Corporation; Jaime Bautista, President and COO, Philippine Airlines; Alexander Lao, President and CEO, Cebgo, Inc.; and Arin Jira, Chairman, ASEAN Business Advisory Council.


(L-R) Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman & CEO, Ayala Corporation; Jaime Bautista, President and COO, Philippine Airlines; Alexander Lao, President and CEO, Cebgo, Inc.; and Arin Jira, Chairman, ASEAN Business Advisory Council.


Jerome Ong of CDO Foodsphere, Michael Escaler of All Asian Countertrade, and PA Joey Concepcion.


George Barcelon of the ASEAN BAC Ph, Dato’ Mohmed Razip Hasan, Deputy Director General (Promotions), Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board and forum moderator, Issa Litton.


Edgar Saavedra, Chairman and CEO, Megawide Construction Corporation; Marie Venus Tan, COO, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) of the Philippines; and Gov. Jose Chaves Alvarez, Provincial Governor of Palawan.


Forum three interveners: Alfred Lay, VP – Hotels & Leisure Consulting, GCI Hospitality; Robert John R. Horrigan, VP Hotel Department, Hotel Restaurant Association of the Philippines; Tran Xuan Moi, Co-founder of Songhan Incubation.


Groove to the Filipino beat! Performers graced the event highlighting their Philippine culture inspired dance.


Bing Limjoco of PCCI, Rose Marie Ong of PRA, Josephine Romero of ASEAN BAC Philippines, Marissa Concepcion, and Emma Imperial of Imperial Homes.


Jaime Bautista (Philippine Airlines), Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (Ayala Corporation), and George Barcelon (PCCI and ASEAN BAC Philippines).


ASEAN BAC Chair Arin Jira, Tourism Secretary Berna Puyat, and PA Joey Concepcion.


Forum five interveners: Pacita Juan, Founder of ECHOStore, Dr. Hooshmand Palany, Chairman, ASEAN-BAC Malaysia Healthcare Working Group; and Neelesh Bhatia, Center Director, Singapore Polytechnic Innovation Office.


Tessie Sy-Coson of SM Investments Corporation, Amb. Koji Haneda (Japan), Amb. Gerard Ho Wei Hong (Singapore) and Ms. Zhou Suli (Singapore).


Gabriel Malvar, Asec. Shalimar Candao of DOT BARMM and Michael Tan of LT Group Inc.


Jaw-dropping performance by the Urban Crew.



Tourism and Mentorship

PA Joey Concepcion and Samie Lim, PCCI Tourism Committee Chairman interviewed by Cito Beltran in his show Agenda last April 30, 2019.


Today is an exciting day as we lead one of the biggest summits on tourism and entrepreneurship. Go Negosyo and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines, in partnership with the Department of Tourism and the Tourism Promotions Board, supported by our business chamber partners such as Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, are hosting the Tourism Summit 2019 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City.

As I mentioned in my previous articles, we are promoting the three pillars for inclusive growth. These are tourism, agriculture, and digitalization. We believe that tourism, if promoted and supported with development programs, will be one of the greatest drivers of economic growth.

This summit will become a solid platform for discussion and reflection on what ASEAN countries have done to develop the tourism industry across the region. Whilst the Philippines is blessed with abundant natural resources and islands which can be used in creating enterprises and livelihood opportunities for our countrymen, we want the summit to inspire aspiring and existing entrepreneurs and help them contribute to the booming tourism economy. This will be an avenue for new learnings that can bring inclusive growth for all.

I have been asked in interviews as to why we have invited ASEAN experts when we can work on our tourism sector amongst ourselves. Aside from  sharing expertise and insights with them, we also want to promote ASEAN as a strong regional bloc that is favored globally. Tourists do not fly to Europe just to see Paris or travel to America just to visit one state. We want travelers to go to the Philippines, then Thailand, Cambodia and other ASEAN countries. Because this is the inclusivity that we want to achieve – growing together through sustainable tourism.

More than 10,000 delegates from the tourism sector, micro, small and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs), aspiring entrepreneurs, and the academe will be in attendance. We are glad to gather more than 100 mayors, governors, and representatives from different cities and municipalities across the Philippines. Aside from this, ambassadors together with some of the Cabinet members, lawmakers and governors will also grace the event.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Anthony Fernandes, ASEAN BAC 2019 chair Arin Jira, and Ayala Corp. CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala are just some of the speakers who will join the summit today.

Samie Lim who leads the committee on tourism of PCCI, has shared with us the 5As of tourism which will also be discussed.. These 5As are arrivals,  access, accommodation, attractions, and activities which will contribute to sustainable tourism.

We have invited close to 60 top-notch speakers, interveners, moderators, and hosts from the international and local setting to address the importance of the tourism industry in empowering Filipino MSMEs, as well as narrowing the gap among ASEAN countries in achieving sustainable socio-economic growth in the ASEAN region.

This is one way of mobilizing the range of mentorship here in the Philippines. Mentorship is an asset to the growth and acceleration of an economy and the advancement of the MSMEs’ budding industry.

While we strongly advocate mentorship here in our country, our flagship project in ASEAN Business Advisory Council, the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN), which was pioneered during our chairmanship in 2017, is continuously moving forward.

We launched AMEN during our chairmanship because we know that in order to achieve inclusive growth, we must equip all MSMEs, through mentorship. This is the legacy that we want to create – a network of mentors who will guide our MSMEs.

Last January, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council received approval of AMEN from the Japanese government through the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF) and moving forward, the programs under AMEN will soon be supported and funded by JAIF for a duration of nine months. This is one of the major developments for AMEN aside from being launched in different countries including Australia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.

The AMEN program is a testimony to the importance of leveraging  knowledge, expertise and business acumen of successful business leaders and entrepreneurs as potent tools for developing MSEs, a sector that generally struggles during the first three years of operation. It also affirms the effectiveness of our very own mentorship program, the Kapatid Mentor Micro- Enterprises (KMME) program, which Go Negosyo has been implementing since 2017 in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry.

On the side note, after today’s summit, ASEAN BAC PH will hold a regional discussion on AMEN tomorrow, May 3 to discuss the training framework for both mentors and entrepreneurs.

The regional discussion meeting which will be attended by delegates from ASEAN member states to discuss the work plan for the mentorship and training of mentors. Members of the delegations look forward to creating a technical working group that will strengthen the AMEN program.

Together with my co-members in the ASEAN BAC, we will continue to make initiatives that will strengthen the network of entrepreneurs across the region!



Concepcion Family during their safari trip in South Africa.

As I finish this column, I’m on my way back to Manila after a short trip to South Africa. For the past years, every summer break, we as a family would sail the Philippine seas in our dive boat, exploring the marine life and discovering the breathtaking corners of our beautiful islands. But this time, since my daughter Catherine will be getting married in June, we had decided to do something different for the summer break.

It was, in fact, 18 years ago when my wife and I last visited South Africa, but it was for a work-related activity. I remem­ber it being quite exciting, but this year proved to be even better as I was able to bring along my four daughters and lovely spouse. (My only son and his wife just had a baby boy, so they could not join us.) As the sole male traveler in the party, I must admit, it was challenging travelling with five women – albeit entertaining as well!

Our safari experience started in Londolozi, a private game reserve situated on the Sand River, within the Greater Kruger National Park.

Our daily activities usually kicked off at 5:30 a.m. when the wildlife was most active. South Africa and its neighboring countries are known for these kinds of safari adventures and have attracted so many tourists from all over the world. You can find ac­commodations fit for every type of traveler and budget. You can live in the most luxurious hotel or just an af­fordable camp and see the same wildlife. You get two game drives a day; one in the morning and another in the late afternoon when it starts to get cooler.

On our first game drive, luck was on our side and my daughter spotted a lion, who led us to a pride of 11 more. It was a thrilling experience to have the majestic creatures surround our open jeep. But our ranger and tracker assured us that we would be safe. We stayed with the pride of lions and were eventually joined by another jeep.

As night came, we learned that the lions usually go to hunt at dusk, so both jeepneys had to shut down their lights and hide in bushes that rose five feet tall. We then had the most amazing opportunity of watching the entire pride feed and fight over one impala.

Those five days in the great unknown with my fam­ily were truly memorable. During my trip, I realized that if one country can attract so many tourists by leveraging their natural attractions and focusing on them, then the Philippines can do the same. We may not have the same safari wildlife experience, but we can offer something so much more which can only be experienced on our 7,600 islands.

We have an “Africa” of the sea with the Tubbataha Reef, which is abundant with sharks. In the Philip­pines, where else can you swim with a school of sardines like in Moalboal, whale sharks in Oslob, dol­phins in Balicasag, dugongs in Busuanga, and thresher sharks and manta rays in Malapascua? While we don’t have safaris and desert dunes like in the Kalahari, we have breathtaking white sand beaches that stretch for kilometers like those in Boracay. There’s the majestic sandbar of Kalanggaman in Leyte, the picture-perfect waves in Siargao, serene twin lakes in Coron, and the paradise islands of El Nido and Linapacan. These are just a few of the beautiful assets of the country; the list goes on!

It is clear that our home – its island beaches, diverse marine life and wild life, rich culture, and, of course, Filipino hospitality – make it a unique destination. This is what attracts the global market and propels tourism in our country.

In my presentation to President Duterte three weeks ago, I highlighted the need to focus on tourism, agri­culture, and digitalization in the next three years as these pose the greatest potential in helping Filipinos rise from poverty and uplift the national economy. This is why on May 2, we will host the first ever tourism summit, launched by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines and Go Negosyo, in partnership with the Department of Tourism.

South Africa welcomes close to 15 million tourists a year. Our neighbor Thailand has around 38 million tourists, while we are targeting 8.2 million tourist ar­rivals this year. Imagine if we can breach the 10 million mark in just three years! It may seem like an impos­sible feat, but we can do it! The key to this is building greater access for the global market through our ports and airports and improving connectivity.

The private sector is one in supporting President Duterte and Sec. Berna Puyat; we hope to make tour­ism a game-changer in creating prosperity for all Filipinos!

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We are still accepting delegates! 

637-9229 or 634-5185