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It has been a week since we successfully staged the biggest and grandest ASEAN Business Awards (ABA) since its inception in 2007. For the past 12 years, Go Negosyo has been doing its annual awards to recognize women, youth and other inspiring entrepreneurs because I always believe that these are the people we can draw inspiration from.
Many Filipinos, especially our millennials, are still not aware of what ASEAN is all about. Ambassador Delia Albert, former foreign affairs secretary who is still active in promoting ASEAN, laments over this during my discussion with her. I felt that under the Philippine chairmanship this year, the private sector needs to take that lead in creating awareness and presenting the importance of ASEAN. Considering the fact that it is President Duterte’s first and only international event that will be hosted by the country in the duration of his term since APEC was already hosted in 2016 under president Aquino. The next time we will host APEC will be after 20 years and the next time we will host ASEAN will be in 10 years.
The ABA gala night was so close to perfect. I told Sec. Mon Lopez that the events of DTI with ASEAN BAC as partner and the ASEAN Business Awards, which happened back-to-back, was just perfect in timing. I guess it was the many years of Sec. Mon working for the private sector and as Go Negosyo’s executive director that this partnership has blossomed to what it is today.
The economic ministers, Cabinet members, ambassadors, and the entire entrepreneurship community were awed at by the outcome of the ASEAN Business Awards. Even I was surprised to see the overflowing number of guests, which was close to 1000, and the carefully selected winners of each category. I was even more inspired to be seated beside Mr. John Gokongwei Jr. Talking to him was like receiving a precious mentorship that I will never forget.
And of course, President Duterte supported me all the way in bringing the private sector as a staunch partner of the government. With our teamwork, it will now lead to greater progress. The President was very happy that evening. So many have congratulated us for the success of the event. Sec. Martin Andanar even told me that this was the most impressive ASEAN event for the year. US Ambassador Sung Kim and the economic ministers were all inspired with what transpired during the gala night.
During my speech, I shared, “Tonight, we honor very inspiring entrepreneurs from different business sectors, many of which started very small. We also honor nine legacy awardees who have shown great commitment to growth and excellence in their respective nations.
“All my life, I’ve looked up to many entrepreneurs who have succeeded and have been an inspiration to me and to the countless of you in this audience. This inspiration is what fuels our drive to succeed, and for every award we receive, the recognition has to be put to good use. It is time that we, who are part of this large business enterprises, give back to those who are not part of the growing economy.”
This is why I said during the ABA, “So I call on all our awardees today to face and accept this challenge. The fastest way towards inclusive growth is to embrace them as part of our supply chain, and as they become part of our supply chain, many of the banks will start to lend. I also call on the banking community, it is time to lend not only to large corporations, but also to many of our struggling entrepreneurs out there, many of who do not have the right collateral or enough collateral, to be able to borrow money.”
As I look back at events that has led me to this role as an entrepreneurship adviser to the President, focusing on MSME development and my role as chair of ASEAN BAC, a role my father had 10 years back, I did not expect that it could happen. It was not a mere coincidence that Sec. Mon Lopez, our former executive director was chosen as President Duterte’s trade secretary. I believe it is destiny and it is God’s plan for all of us. That all roles, may it be big or small, is given to us to help humanity. It is how we take these roles that determines our real faith.
Thank you to all who have made it a memorable night for the awardees, but more importantly may this be a rallying point for all of us to help bring about a better life for many ASEAN citizens who still live below the poverty line.