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It has been a busy week for me and for most people in the business sector. After my meeting with the President, together with the members of the jobs cluster of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) last Aug. 17, I put on my ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) hat and headed off to Indonesia for the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting. Just last Saturday, the Go Negosyo team was in Antipolo City for our free entrepreneurship mentoring event 3M on Wheels, and in a few days, I will be off to Indonesia once again for the ASEAN Business Investment Summit (ASEAN BIS).
Shuttling to and from small, grassroots events like 3M on Wheels, to policy-forming meetings like the ASEAN BIS and the ones I regularly attend for PSAC, can be physically and mentally taxing, but I cannot deny that it is quite fulfilling. As I wrote last week in this very same space, the breadth in the kinds of interactions I have with all manner of people provides valuable insight and help inform the actions and decisions at these meetings.
For PSAC, for example, we look at priority sectors where we can have the most impact in upscaling and generating more jobs for Filipinos, and help the underemployed get better employment opportunities. These sectors are agriculture MSMEs, BPOs, manufacturing, maritime industries and electric vehicles. Our efforts to achieve a transformative motorcycle taxi (or habal habal) program are continuing and, if successful, this could generate more than a million jobs, not to mention produce upstream and downstream benefits for the Philippine economy.
We continue to refine the Kapatid Angat Lahat sa Agri Program (KALAP) and I am happy to share that from the initial 12 big-brother companies we had at the beginning of the program, 23 more big agri companies have agreed to join and integrate small farmers into their value chains in order to create a sustainable, productive and inclusive Philippine agriculture industry.
With hope, we can discover more inclusive business models that can be applied to other commodities, in addition to those we already have with rice, coconut, cacao, tobacco, sugar and coffee. Hopefully, too, we will continue to stay on track to connect around 200,000 MSMEs in the agriculture industry and create nearly half a million jobs in the process.
With hope, the private sector comprising the big brother companies of KALAP can play a bigger role in the strategy of farm clustering. I believe having private sector backing in agriculture will encourage more companies (and more banks) to have confidence in the sector. This public-private sector partnership is a proven successful model we’ve applied over the past 18 years in our Go Negosyo programs like Kapatid Mentor ME, Kapatid Agri Mentor ME Program and 3M on Wheels. I believe this can be applied to benefit agriculture, which is the second-biggest employment sector in the country.
Our own neighbors in ASEAN appreciate the soundness of the KALAP model, and we are starting to cement agreements that will practically replicate the model in other ASEAN countries. Expanding the KALAP initiative can help address agricultural productivity in each country and ultimately contribute to the region’s food security. We’ve signed such an agreement with our ASEAN BAC counterparts in Malaysia.
Moreover, I was delighted to see that Indonesia has a KALAP twin in their own Inclusive Closed Loop model. KALAP is an agri MSME development program that builds on proven private sector block-farming models to enhance food security, boost farm productivity and raise farmer incomes by enabling them to become entrepreneurs. Indonesia’s Inclusive Closed Loop Model empowers MSMEs and farmers with finance, knowledge, technology and market access. We are aligned in our goal of raising farm productivity by integrating small farmers into the value chain of large agriculture companies.
What is more exciting is that these agri-MSME development initiatives can dovetail with Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s logistics ASEAN RO-RO Network Initiative, which he co-launched during ASEAN50 in 2017. I am optimistic that we will get on board the majority of the ASEAN member-states in our endeavors to achieve food security in the region.
The inclusive agriculture model of KALAP wouldn’t be the first time a Philippines-originated program met success in the ASEAN. Last week, we held the culminating activity for the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN), the legacy program of the Philippines’ chairmanship of the ASEAN BAC.
The seeds for AMEN were planted in 2017, leading to its funding by the Japan ASEAN Integration Fund and its pilot in 2019. This year, we have successfully concluded its second phase, and now have 194 graduates from the ten ASEAN member-states. The KMME-based module that we created for AMEN, together with the Department of Trade and Industry, has been translated into seven languages, and we now have in our network 105 mentors, 111 coaches and 20 consultants.
We are moving forward to Phase 3 of AMEN, and are already looking at several collaborations and synergies with other MSME programs around ASEAN. These include a digital library to house our collective knowledge of entrepreneurship best practices and resources through a free access WIKI, as well as a cross-deployment of specialized entrepreneurship mentors within ASEAN.
It is satisfying to see programs and projects like AMEN and KALAP take root and prosper, especially when the foundations were painstakingly built many years before, using no small amount of patience and faith and conviction. Even more satisfying is to receive the validation and affirmation of peers from other countries. During these times, it confirms how our problems and priorities are essentially the same, and that the solutions inevitably come down to cooperation between government and the private sector. In our task of MSME development – whether it is in agriculture or retail or services or manufacturing – I am convinced that public and private sector cooperation makes all the difference.