PH business leaders unite, lay down strategy in overcoming COVID crisis

Published March 28, 2021, 10:12 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

Anticipating a belated recovery for the Philippines, top leaders in the business sector have heeded a call to band together in order to address gaps in the response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the prevailing economic crisis.

Stores in Manila, the Philippines. (Geric Cruz/Bloomberg)

This call came from Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi), which recently held a virtual roundtable discussion titled, “The Private Sector as a reliable partner to the government in economic recovery.”

“I’ve long argued that the shared prosperity will be crucial in uplifting the lives of Filipinos, accelerating the country’s economic momentum and in helping rebuild the nation toward sustainable and resilient development,” ADRI President Dindo Manhit said during the talk.

“Economic solutions can address this if we can provide good jobs that can generate enough savings, that can allow people to overcome some of these social difficulties brought about by the pandemic beyond the health challenges,” Manhit noted.

In response to this, Ayala Corporation Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said, “If we will act in unison, work together, join forces and focus on some key areas where we can all make a difference, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the private sector can be a massive generator of goodwill in our country and a solution to many of our problems.”

Ayala described the private sector as “a force for growth and a force for good.” “If we continue to put our collective resources and determination, the task will be able to force multiply the growth and the good that we can do in nation building,” he noted.

During the discussions, Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., President of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, raised some concern about the government’s response to the increasing unemployment rate as well as the slow re-opening of the economy, which according to him has hampered business operations of small and medium enterprises, and the big corporations.

PH business sector to recover in 2022

“Based on the very slow reopening of business with the medical and the military making decisions for the domestic economy, we see business recovery to start only next year,” Ortiz-Luis said.

“I think it is time for us to work with the government to assess where we,” reckoned Amb. Benedicto Yujuico, President of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

“Because in the future, we need to be better prepared as we realize to take care of our own people and not to depend on other countries for our health and welfare,” Yujuico said, as he also noted the pandemic’s continuing negative impact on local businesses.

Management Association of the Philippines President Gigi Montinola offered a positive outlook on the country’s economic state despite being ravaged by the pandemic in the past year.

“The pandemic today looks gruesome. But even if we are the slowest to recover, this too will pass. And we have to do our share to make this pass more quickly,” Montinola said.

Stratbase ADRi Chairman Amb. Albert del Rosario agreed that the government can’t do it alone. “There is undeniable public consensus that the government should engage more actively with the private sector to fast-track economic recovery,” he said.

“Developing secure business-to-government and citizen-to-government platforms integrated with real-time information management systems will eliminate the need for physical presence and the slow and archaic paper-based, manual signature heavy process, in getting the necessary permits, payment of fees and taxes, and other documents,” he explained.

In this regard, Del Rosario said both public and private institutions “can no longer cling to their old ways and must now step-up their digital transformation to deliver their services and products efficiently and extensively”.

For his part, Makati Business Club (MBC) Chairman Edgar Chua suggested that the state shift its spending focus from subsidies or import duties to research and development (R&D), as a way to “improve productivity and market connectivity, and to lower the various costs associated with the whole value chain”.

Manhit futher opined: “I believe that the private sector can demand transparency and accountability in governance. We need to shape that environment.”