ABAC PH urges business to push for digitalization

Published October 27, 2020, 12:26 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Philippines has urged the 21-member countries of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation to accelerate cooperation leveraging digital technologies to overcome further decline as economies continue to battle the impact of the pandemic.

In a recent virtual ABAC PH Forum on Digital Innovation, ABAC PH Chairman Tomas I. Alcantara underscored the role of regional cooperation in responding to COVID-19. Alcantara, chair of one of the Philippines conglomerates, Alsons Group, cited the value of sharing best practices and economies complementing each other to build capacity.

“While the pandemic has put many industries to a halt and caused thousands to lose their jobs, it has also accelerated digital innovation among businesses and communities. The same digital technology will enable us to harness our human capital for the new future-of-work. And the same digital technology that will provide new products and services, that supports financial inclusion and growth of key sectors, including the SMEs,” said Alcantara.

ABAC PH Chairman Tomas I. Alcantara (left), and ABAC PH representative Sabin M. Aboitiz ( Photo credit: https://aboitiz.com/media-center/press/)

Even prior to the pandemic, Alcantara noted of the business sector’s efforts to shift to the fourth industrial revolution amid a rough start.

“Still, the challenge is to ensure that economic growth, and the opportunities from a more liberalized trade and investment will benefit all, especially the developing economies. Let us leverage digital innovation to achieve this goal,” said Alcantara at the forum.

He said that ABAC PH will continue to hold dialogues with other members to draw their recommendations for presentation to the Leaders during the Annual APEC Summit by end this year.

“The pandemic is not one that will keep us from moving forward,” he concluded.

 For his part, ABAC PH representative Sabin M. Aboitiz noted of the APEC report in July that COVID-19 has already caused a 3.7 percent drop in the Asia Pacific region’s economic growth for 2020, with the total output loss at $2.9 trillion.

But he warned that the full measure of the impact of this pandemic has yet to be known. Thus,  he said, APEC’s main recommendations for member economies are to invest in digital technology, improve technological infrastructure, and equip people with digital skills.

“These investments are basic for economies to survive,” he said stressing that digitalization has shielded businesses from completely going under in this global pandemic. “Some companies struggled to make the shift while for others, it was simply like flipping a switch,” he said.

In the case of  the Aboitiz Group, he said the company belongs to the latter as has already put in place digital transformation efforts several years back. Aboitiz is President and CEO of the Aboitiz Group, one of the leading conglomerates in the Philippines with primary business in the power sector.

“Our collective experience these past months also points to how vital it is to have strong public-private collaboration,” he said.

He urged businesses to pay attention to the Asian Development Bank, which urged to particularly pay close cooperation in order to protect consumers against cyber-crimes and fraud, prevent illegal activities, enhance cyber security to prevent cyber-attacks, and protect personal data and privacy.

“I cannot emphasize enough that neither the private sector nor the governments can do this on their own. As a matter of fact, no country can do this on their own. As I have said before, we know that no country in the world, regardless of socio-economic status, can claim they were well-prepared to handle COVID-19,” he added. The deep impact of the pandemic, he said, only further highlighted the need to maximize regional cooperation to share resources. “Countries need to come together to address the gaps in both resources and strategy on the road to building back better,” he said.