Speech at the General Membership Meeting of Anvil Business Club, Inc.

24 November 2015

Thank you very much for that kind introduction. I would like to greet the different officers who are here. The Chairman Emeritus, George Siy.

The Chairman. Our present Chairman, Peter Mangasing.

Reginal Yu, the President.

Hubert Henry Chua, the Vice-President.

All the other officers of the Anvil Business Club. All the members of the Anvil Business club.

Good evening to you all.

First of all, I would like to thank you very much for inviting me to what is becoming a well-known and dynamic group of young entrepreneurs and businessmen in the Philippines. I’m honored and inspired to have been called upon by the Anvil Business Club to share my thoughts on and I was told, about our country’s current situation and what possible proposals I might have to uplift the country and suggestions on how you can be part of the process of nation building.

If anyone has listened to me speak before, I often always come back to the idea and use the phrase of “nation-building”. The reason I do that is that I strongly believe that it is the actual, it is in fact, the function of government and of government officials to be thinking about nation-building.
Sadly, in the past several years, we do not here the phrase “nation-building”. All we here is politics. Again, as businessmen you know how this constant attention to political issues, parties and issues, get in the way of progress and get in the way of the exercise of nation building. Hopefully, we can return to the idea of nation building where we begin to put together all the elements to make a strong, vibrant, lively and progressive society. That is something that we should all be working towards. It is something that, perhaps we have lost our way in the past few years. It is something that we need to regain. If we are to regain our position once again in the international community and if we are to bring a better life to our people.

But I am honored tonight, precisely because I am particularly being sought for, for my thoughts and opinions by young Filipino entrepreneurs, who are, without question, competent and visionary leaders yourselves.

I am likewise inspired, because here you are, the emerging breed of Filipino entrepreneurs, with such optimism and patience, eager and ready to listen and to be inspired on what is your role on nation-building.

I know for a fact that in your respective corporate and business environments, you are more accustomed to being the ones giving the orders and the instructions, not the other way around. You are used to calling the shots and being the ones listened to by your people for advice.

Now, you have decided to reverse the roles for the time being. Ngayon, kayo naman ang makikinig sa payo. At sa dami ng mga puwedeng hingan ng payo, isang politiko ang inyong napili. Baka magsisi kayong lahat.

But kidding aside, this is in fact for good measure. In my opinion, it is good and healthy for business people to seek advice and to coordinate and to have a discussion and a dialogue with government leaders, at least every once in a while. Because after all, being entrusted with the public welfare, government leaders are trained and oriented to see what we call the big picture, to look at things at the macro-level—taking into consideration all the factors and elements of our society, with the end in view of protecting the general will and ensuring “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Siyempre, kasama na rin diyan ang ekonomiya at ang mga negosyo sa kabuuan na dapat alalahanin ng isang lingkod-bayan.

In simple terms, my vision of our country is one that can overcome its economic and social challenges by drawing on our own strengths and drawing on our unity. It is a vision of the Philippines that is prosperous, rich in opportunity, home to happy, morally upright, and productive citizens whose lives are meaningful because theirs is a just society, because theirs is a nation that has become great once more.

However, this vision is a very daunting task, a task so daunting that it has continually remained a puzzle and mystery and has challenged even the greatest leaders in our history. 26% of Filipino people are poor, 11% of Filipinos live in extreme poverty. And further compounding our problems is the grave inequality that pervades in our society now.

Presently, our unemployment rate is at 6.6%, a figure that translates to 3 million able-bodied Filipinos looking for jobs, but cannot find jobs. Together with that, 17% consider themselves under-employed. Hence, this perceived lack of sufficient local opportunities precisely and directly explains the phenomenon of why more and this statistic was shocking to me when I first hear it, more than 5,000 people leave the country every single day to become OFWs. When I first hear 5,000, I thought they were saying 5,000 a month or 5,000 every 6 months. It is now 5,000 a day. Our best and brightest have to leave the Philippines; have to leave their country; have to leave their loved ones, because there are no opportunities to support themselves and their families in the Philippines. I consider it a minor tragedy.

Considering the poverty, and the social inequality and injustice that pervade our society, it seems that we as a collective people are the ones responsible for driving out our very own kababayans to work in other countries, because we cannot seem to offer them decent economic opportunities at home.

So with this rather very bleak picture of FIlipino society “version 2015”, let me now move on to the precise part where you come in and play a very significant role, ladies and gentlemen.

I firmly believe that business should take the lead in nation-building, from boosting the economy, via genuine poverty alleviation, to attaining a just and equitable society—all in the conscious effort and pursuit of what is called an “inclusive growth” of our economy.

In my simple analysis, business contributes to nation-building through the following very important mechanisms that they perform and operationalize in our economy: tax payments, delivery of basic services to the people, job creation and maintenance, protection, just to name a few.

First, in the area of tax payments, we are aware of the immense contribution of the business to the revenue collection of government, year in and year out. So, if the young Filipino-Chinese business people want to ask how they can be of better service to our task of nation-building: contribute your fair and accurate share in the revenue collection of government.

As a bit of inspiration, the BIR publishes, with a certain sense of pride and accomplishment, an annual list of top 500 taxpayers in the country, which constantly reflects the names of, yes you guessed it, individuals with Filipino-Chinese descent and businesses which are owned and managed by Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs.

Second, through the mechanism of job creation. As you all know, owing to the innovativeness, vision and wisdom of entrepreneurs, business enterprises are built, and productivity is spurred through the efficient harnessing of labor. As a result, job opportunities are generated, providing employment to our fellow Filipinos, who can in turn, establish their families and homes and build upon their own dreams.

However, I believe that government does not play a large enough part in the process of job creation. I say this because in my view, it is clear that the statistics are very clear. 90% of our workers work in the private sector. Only 10% work in the private sector. However, it is the job, I believe, of the public sector of government to train and to make ready our laborers, our employees, our workers, for the jobs that are going to be made available to them in the private sector. This does not come only in terms of training programs from the government, but also in the infrastructure development of government in the areas that are critical to the growth of our economy, to the growth of businesses.

We talk of areas like infrastructure development like bringing sufficient and cheap and reliable power. Like a constancy in our financial policy and how we regulate our banking systems, our financial systems. Also a constancy and a stable fiscal policy. I think we are all in this room best friends with Commissioner Kim Henares because we are always confused by her latest “innovations” shall we say in her quest to increase her tax collection. Bu this kind of volatility in terms of policy has to change. It is important, I always tell my colleagues in government, businessmen do not necessarily need for you to say that things are going to be better or that everything that will happen will be for the better. But, what they want to know is that they are working in a stable environment so that they can make long term plans. It is impossible for a business to grow unless you make long term plans. It is impossible to make long term plans when the policy of government towards business is constantly changing and sometimes arbitrarily no reason that we can understand.

So, I would like to urge you to continue generating local employment opportunities for our fellow FIlipinos. May you always see the wisdom and the need for committing human capital in all of your business endeavors, more so in the face of the threat of computerization, automation and machines that the digital information age has brought us.

But moreover, at the same, I highly exhort all of you to uphold the value and the dignity of the Filipino human capital, as an indispensable component of any commercial endeavor. One equally important facet of your specific function that you perform in society should also be job protection, job security, or making sure that the jobs that you have generated would likewise be maintained, preserved and protected as much as possible, in as much as these precious jobs, for all you know and care, greatly impact the lives and future of your employees and other underprivileged kababayans.

If business looks for a stable environment to work within, so do workers look for stable environment within which to build their families and their futures.

As youthful and emerging business leaders of the country, you will contribute greatly to our desired pace of nation-building if you start with your own respective companies and enterprises, which you operate and manage, by adopting labor-friendly management styles and implementing policies and practices that are beneficial for the welfare of your employees. Further, research has proven that a “positive work-life balance”, balance between work and life outside of work benefits the productivity of employees as much as it benefits the productivity of the company, meaning they figuratively pay dividends to the entire company as well.

To use a concrete example, and I do understand that this might be a bit of a bitter pill for you to swallow, what can we do to remedy these phenomena of “contractualization” of labor and “minimalization” of employee benefits, which is now prevalent now in our country? As managers of businesses, you know what goes on in these operations, as well as the effects on the cash-flow and on the books of account of the whole venture. What are the reasons that drive these complex phenomena that are currently besetting our Filipino manpower resource now?

Your expert analyses and number-crunching are going to be essential data in making the government understand this phenomenon and find ways to address the same, in a manner that is ideally tripartite. Why do I say tripartite? That it represents both employees and employers’ interests, perhaps such as the Employers Confederation of the Philippines. The mere thought of it may be really difficult to accept but it is worth our taking a giant leap of faith as a people, as an important step towards equalizing the forces and leveling the playing field for all Filipinos.

Third, in the realm of delivery of basic services to the people. The business sector services the people’s needs where the resources and the capability of government are inadequate or not up to the desired standard of living of the people. Likewise, the private sector may be tapped as an able partner of government in the planning and operation of very important public infrastructure projects, through the mode of what we have come to know now as “public-private partnerships”, which I also happen to be advocating in my work in the Senate.

Continue to provide basic services that are safe, high-quality and affordable, and in that way ultimately improve the lives and the conditions of living of the people. May you never run out of good ideas. With keen and perceptive insight, never cease surveying and analyzing our market conditions and our consumers’ needs and behaviors. And on the side, always strive to integrate a organizational tradition of corporate social responsibility as a defining trait or characteristic of your leadership and management style. We all must be good citizens. We all must be socially responsible as individuals; as corporations; and first of all, as government.

In your feasibility studies and expansion plans, explore likewise the possibility of expanding and breeding business growth outside of Metro Manila. Contribute in the laying of the building blocks in developing these areas outside of greater Metro Manila. In the process, not only will you be able to unearth economic potential yet undiscovered, but will also be able to reach underserved Filipinos. Equally important, this outward urban development will also alleviate the worsening traffic problems and overcrowding that we now have in Metro Manila.

However, having said that, I would like to add that the main driver of any such move outside of Metro Manila, the main driver will still be the infrastructure development that the government does. You cannot be expected to go to places where there are no roads. You cannot expect to go to places where there is no water supply; where there is no power. You cannot be expected to go to places where there is no policing; there is not a strong government structure to administer. So, again this is where government and businesses must work hand in hand. But I think, the onus right now is on government. I have been espousing the concept of business friendly infrastructure. As in make the infrastructure development that the government should make should not be made for political purposes, but should be made to build a road to where businesses actually go. Not to where the mayor is “malakas” to the president. Put up facilities to where they are in fact needed. That is why when we talk about infrastructure, immediately we think of traffic; we think of the ports; we think of our airports. This is the kind of infrastructure that business needs. So that is again the leading part that government must play and with that I believe that you entrepreneurs will take every advantage that you can of such new developments that government will bring.

Let us consider for example agriculture. The Philippines used to be an agricultural country. You might be surprised that I used the phrase “used to be” because as a matter of fact, agriculture merely accounts about 10% of our gross domestic product. Gone are the days when we used to produce our own food. Now, we import almost everything, including the food we eat! Worse, we import even the rice that is our main staple. Why import, when we can plant and harvest on our land? We are not lacking in land. We are not lacking in skilled manpower. It is just that we are not blessed with the political will in our government.

My point is this, as a young, exuberant, innovative and tech-savvy business leaders who will develop and nurture the economy of the future, you may want to consider betting on our agricultural potential, as part of your innovative and diverse entrepreneurial vision. Perhaps you can venture on agricultural production via the corporate organization, with the benefits of adequate capital investment, mechanization, and support that you can provide as part of that development. Landowners and even farmers can be tapped as joint venture partners, at the same time, employees of sufficiently capitalized agricultural corporations of which you can be at the helm. Who knows, the Filipino young business people today might just be the people that we all have been waiting for to once and for all jumpstart and drive upward our declining agricultural economy?

In my leadership and public service in this country, you will always be assured of my constant promotion and advocacy of business-friendly policies and a healthy investment-climate in the country, with specific emphases on a stable and conducive peace and order situation, strong public infrastructure network, a just, equitable and sensible taxation system, and a government that is free from red-tape and unnecessary bureaucratic layers.

But then again, everything will start with a common desire for unity: Unity between the rich and the poor; Unity between employers and employees. More importantly, a unity between the government and the people. It is the firm foundation that we need to be able to ask you, the business leaders of our country, to take the lead in nation-building for all Filipinos.

It is the firm foundation we need to be able to help you in that role, and to create a business environment of more opportunities for investors, and an environment in which innovation, competition, and customer choice, value-added, drives our growth, and an environment in which businesses and consumers alike can be confident in a fair, consistent, and uncompromised regulation.

So, I will leave it at that. Hanggang dito na lamang po. Sana po ay suportahan ninyo ako sa aking pangarap at hangad para sa kaunlaran ng ating bansa.Makakaasa po kayo na magiging katuwang ko ang mga negosyante at ang pribadong sektor upang maisakatuparan ang ating mga plano at ang ating mga hinahangad.

Kasama po kayong lahat doon sa ating mga hangarin, mga minamahal kong miyembro ng Anvil Business Club at Association of Young Filipino-Chinese Entrepreneurs!

Mabuhay ang Anvil Business Club at Association of Young Filipino-Chinese Entrepreneurs!

Maraming, maraming salamat sainyo at magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat!