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Last January, the World Bank released its Global Economic Prospects report indicating that the Philippines is the fastest-growing economy in ASEAN and is expected to sustain its robust economic growth for the next years. In early March, we also topped the US News’ list of best countries to invest in the world. We bested ASEAN neighbors Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and countries like Poland, Spain, and India, among others. These news reports encourage us all to continue in our contributions to the economy.
While Philippines is leading in the region, the ASEAN itself is the strongest economic bloc in the world. This is because of the collective growth of the 10 member countries. Our growth can also be attributed to our dialogue partners who supports us in economic, trade, security, and other development areas.
One of our dialogue partners is Australia, led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Australia was, in fact, the first ASEAN dialogue partner back in 1974.
Last week, I was invited to the several engagements during the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit held in Sydney. There, we officially launched the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network, or AMEN, in partnership with the Australia-ASEAN Business Council.
Since this is my continuing advocacy and the legacy project of the council during my 2017 chairmanship, I led the introduction of AMEN to our Australian counterparts. AMEN was launched in November 2017 with President Duterte during the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.
AMEN will allow start-ups, micro and small entrepreneurs in Australia to connect and build international relations with mentors and business experts across ASEAN. The program aims to facilitate the movement of startups between ASEAN countries and Australia.
Together with co-council members, we promoted AMEN during the following meetings: ASEAN-Australia Business Insights dinner in King & Wood Mallesons, Australian Business Leaders’ Exchange with ASEAN Business Advisory Council at the Intercontinental Hotel, and lastly at the ASEAN-Australia Entrepreneurs Business Forum held in Sydney Startup Hub.
I shared with them the importance of mentorship and also money and market. I highlighted the change in the entrepreneurship landscape with enterprises turning from offline businesses to online. I then called on the partners in ASEAN and Australia. “We are taking baby steps in learning. We are now trying to bring more participation by enjoining others in what we are doing in the hopes that each country will replicate. With this, we are creating a rich pool of mentors across the region and other nearby economies.”
Eleanor Mak, president of the Australia-ASEAN Business Council, said, “We are so pleased with how our program partners so generously and supportively agreed to be part of this pilot program. They are providing access to world-class initiatives for the use of ASEAN entrepreneurs and startups through the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network. This is a strong foundation on which to grow. The opportunity is remarkable.”
Start-ups in Australia will now have access to the pool of mentors and, additionally, in programs of incubators and accelerators.
I was also honored to join the Women in Business breakfast forum hosted by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s wife Lucy. The forum was co-hosted by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Madam Ho Ching. The forum highlighted the contribution and inclusion of women in the advancement of businesses in the region.
I was also personally invited by Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the Business Summit’s CEO Forum held last Saturday, March 17. Only selected prominent business leaders from ASEAN and Australia came together to discuss topics vital to deepening economic integration. Other CEOs from the Philippines who joined were Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Tessie Sy-Coson, Lance Gokongwei and Enrique Razon.
In his speech, Prime Minister Turnbull related how ASEAN and Australia share the commitment to stable and secure open markets and free trade.
“Open markets do not happen by themselves. They require the support and commitment of governments and business leaders like yourselves. That’s why I’ve invited you all here today, our business leaders are here today, because the success of a resilient and innovative ASEAN region hinges on your contribution. Your participation today will improve our knowledge of opportunities in our markets and how we can secure them,” Prime Minister Turnbull said.
Business leaders then joined roundtable discussions which focused on the following areas: tourism destination development and aviation, digital transformation in services, advanced manufacturing and industry, agri-food supply chain logistics, future energy supply chains, and infrastructure.
One of the highlights of the trip was when I met Dr. Robert Kahn, one of the fathers of the internet. He co-invented TCP/IP protocols used in the internet. Thanks to him, we are enjoying our social media websites, online videos and other related internet services. I had a long conversation with him about business which he gladly accommodated. I asked him if he would consider coming to the Philippines while he and his wife are still in their 80s and he seemed interested to visit our country. Go Negosyo and ASEAN BAC Philippines will work on a digital conference and, hopefully, we will have Dr. Kahn as one of our speakers. His wife, Patrice, was equally interesting. They are both humble and extremely intelligent.
With this summit and other related activities, we have strengthened our partnership with Australia. Together, we can work together to bring inclusive growth in our countries and provide prosperity for all for our citizens.