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Last week while I was in Laos, I was able to briefly meet President Duterte while he was walking to a room with the other ministers to meet various groups. That day, the president was the superstar with people from different countries wanting a photo with him. Apparently, people were curious to meet the person who is extremely passionate about making the Philippines a drug-free nation. ?
During his talk at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, his speech was straightforward. During the photo session, I asked him if I could have a meeting with him to discuss our “Kapatid, Angat Lahat” program and other important issues. He said to set it, and thanks to the very efficient assistant of the president, Sec. Bong Go, we were told we could meet Monday evening. Although Monday was a holiday, it was still good news to be given a slot when I was told some people had to wait much longer.?
We were given 30 minutes to present but since there was a delay due to the agrarian reform committee which made the president engaged with pressing issues, all other appointments were pushed back. The delay was perfectly fine with us as it gave Sec. Mon and myself the time to have a lengthy discussion with DOLE director IV Dominique Tutay on the pressing labor contracting issue. George Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry was also in that meeting with us together with DOST Sec. Boy de la Peña, DA Usec. Ariel Cayanan and Go Negosyo consultant on MSME development Merly Cruz.
That night, I had three major topics for discussion with the president: the Kapatid program, the contractualization issue and the ASEAN Summit which the Philippines is hosting next year in time with its 50th year as I was recently appointed to chair the ASEAN Business Advisory Council which is basically the private sector counterpart.? ?
We started with a presentation on Kapatid. I told him that my passion, which is MSME development, has been there for the last 12 years just like his passion in making a drug-free country.
I explained to him the vision behind Kapatid, which meant sibling. Kapatid is the brand that we are using to promote inclusive growth. This also pertains to the Big Brothers (large corporations), and the Small Brothers (micro, small and medium enterprises) in the community which can help others in reaching growth and success. Kapatid’s tagline: Angat Lahat empowers every entrepreneur to level up regardless the size and industry. ?
I was seated in front of the president and saw that he was pleased as I was explaining the program. The micro SMEs need our help more than the others. Many MSMEs are not able to get mentors to guide them. Some did not receive the best education as well. This is where the big companies have agreed to share their talent in the massive mentoring program. Sec. Mon Lopez will be the first secretary to give focus on this area.? ?
This discussion set the tone for the entire night.
I asked the president if he would mind discussing the next topic which would be contractualization. This has been bothering the business community for some time now. I told him that endo or end of contract must be stopped, but I suggested that the business community can continue to hire service providers on the condition that the providers will regularize contractual workers and give them benefits which include retirement pay, and most of all, security of tenure. What is important is job security in the end. The objective is really job creation and that the employers (whether direct hiring or through agencies) do not really matter provided the conditions are met. I, Sec. Mon and George Barcelon were pleased the president agreed to the proposal.
This is a win-win for all parties concerned. I also suggested that, like in the past, let us continue to maintain industrial peace because for the past 12 years, our country has faced very few strikes. We should continue to foster this atmosphere. This will enable us to bring in more investors. The president was very supportive. The priority in his mind was job creation and increasing the income of employees. I do believe change is now happening, let’s give our president the chance to show us the way.
In closing, I simply mentioned the ASEAN Summit which we will be hosting next year. I asked him to consider holding the ASEAN in the Mall of Asia boulevard area where the new airport road will be opened and more hotels are being finished. And he agreed to this proposal as well. This will be the chance for the Philippines, under the Duterte administration, to showcase our strength in the international business community.