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Right after we launched the Mentor Me in Davao, I was interviewed by Pia Hontiveros on her show News.PH in CNN Philippines. We talked about the State Visit to China and the Go Negosyo Mentor Me program.
Let me share our discussion:
PIA: Welcome back to News.PH, I am Pia Hontiveros. With me now is long-time businessman, wears very many hats, and I’ll explain to you in a little bit why he’s guesting on the show when we’re talking about this pivot to China. He is the adviser to the President on entrepreneurship. He is also, this year, the chairman for the ASEAN Business Advisory Council because the Philippines is going to be hosting the ASEAN Summit. And, like I said, a long-time businessman who was at the helm of one of the country’s biggest food conglomerates, Mr. Joey Concepcion. Sir, thank you very much for joining us now.
PIA: We have just finished talking about China including the trip of the President to China. You are going to be on that trip to China?
JOEY: Yes, I will be on that trip, yes.
PIA: Okay. Can you tell us in more details why, and in what capacity, and what exactly do you hope we can get from this trip?
JOEY: Well, everybody seems to be very excited—the President, of course, and we have a lot of Filipino-Chinese businessmen here in the country. The President is actually putting his bet on China, on what China, can sort of reciprocate here. As you know, we have the issues with the base which has been constructed out there. Likewise with every businessman out there, they want to give the President full support.
PIA: Earlier today, Charles Jose, spokesperson for the DFA, was asked in a Malacanang press conference: “Can you give us more details about these MOUs, MOAs, what all these businessmen are going to be signing?” He said that they are still being finalized. Do you have some idea what’s in store for us?
JOEY: Well, I only know one because he is part of our business community in Go Negosyo. It’s Injap Sia who is the owner of Jin-Jiang Inn. They will be signing a MOA with their partners overseas in China and I think they’re going to double-up their number of rooms that they will be building in the Philippines. That’s one of the many agreements that I think is going to be signed. Everything seems to be a go. Everybody’s expected to be there by the 19th. It’s very hard to say exactly what will happen. There could be something good that will happen, but rather than say it, we just wait for it to happen. Many things can change, but I’m looking at this with full optimism. I think the President is different, he relies on his gut feel, he believes that China is the right country to approach, and let’s see what concessions we can get from them. We can’t wage war against China. They are here to stay. So, what can we get out of this whole thing?
PIA: Okay. So, we are not pivoting away from the US or alliances with other, well, the EU for example. We’re not pivoting away from them and pivoting towards China and Russia? We’re not leaving that behind?
JOEY: They still are major players in the world, and no country in its right mind would just shove them away. I think we will all be surprised with the outcome of our China visit that things will turn out pretty good.
PIA: Yung mga small, micro, SMEs, these are very close to your heart because of Go Negosyo. Will they also benefit?
JOEY: Not directly. I think the approach here is really that most of the medium-sized and large businesses that are visiting China, but we are all anchored on many micro and small enterprises. As we expand our businesses, many of our smaller entrepreneurs—suppliers who are entrepreneurs—are attached to the whole ecosystem. If the country continues to grow, and if China comes in and invests in the country in a large way, definitely it will spur a lot of business activity which will filter down to many of the other entrepreneurs who are connected to the larger corporations. So, I think the anxiety really poses: what is going to happen with our relationship with China? We can’t wage war against China. Even if the Americans side with us, there’s no chance because, you know, you drop one bomb in the Philippines and we’re finished. The economy will go in shambles. Let’s give him the chance to try his style. His style is unique. It’s really a gut-feel approach. I’ve met with him a couple of times, and there’s no playbook on Duterte. He goes on how he feels the situation is. That is how he has run Davao for a very long time, and he’s been successful as a lower government official. Now, this is the real case. Let’s see what happens after China.
R: Part of the excitement is also about what we can gain in terms of infrastructure for example.
JOEY: As I’ve said, it’s like you’re asking for a gift and the gift is not there. Let’s see what China has to offer.
R: Tell us a bit more about what you already mentioned before, you are the ASEAN-BAC chairman and Philippines is hosting ASEAN. How does that fit into what the President is trying to do with China?
JOEY: Next year is going to be the 50th year of ASEAN. It’s very important that for the first time the President is holding an international event of this magnitude that we showcase the best.
R: Just to close this segment of this show and you said something very interesting, you said that there is no playbook to Duterte, and you’ve spent a lot of time with him. How did he offer this job to you as presidential adviser on entrepreneurship?
JOEY: I guess he’s been exposed to what Go Negosyo has been doing all these years. He believes helping the small and micro entrepreneurs is the way to go. That’s why you see Mon Lopez there as DTI Secretary who is doing his job. And in the past, many DTI (secretaries) have focused on larger companies. This time, we will have a DTI secretary who will help the smaller people because many of the micro and small (entrepreneurs) comprise more than 90 percent of the Philippine business are playing in that level. We have to really scale up from education to mentorship.
PIA: You’ve just launched a mentorship program.
JOEY: Yes, we’ve launched the Kapatid Program.
PIA: Totoong mentorship program iyon. I mean this is not for show.
PIA: This is a real, holding them, taking them by the hand.
JOEY: This is a Kapatid Project, a project between Go Negosyo and DTI. So, all the way down many private sector companies are joining to help mentor. I’m glad the President spent a lot of time with us last Friday (Mentor Me Launch in Davao – Oct. 7) which was close to five hours. He was very comfortable with the entrepreneurs, and that’s when I saw the different side of a Duterte presidency. In other words, he was open – people can talk to him and share their problems. They were taking pictures and autographs.
PIA: Final words, sir?
JOEY: Well, you know, I think everybody is concerned with what is really happening. They expect the President to change, and we can’t change his character. That’s what he’s made of and that’s why he got elected. As we move forward, I think we’re going to see a different Duterte, but don’t expect him to change and become a very formal guy. In fact, when he attended our Friday event, he was very casual, no socks, we had to remove our jackets and unbutton our shirts.
JOEY: He’s a very casual person. I’m very optimistic that change is happening. We all have to be part of change. We have him for six years. We should somehow stop complaining and we have to understand that this man is out for real change.
PIA: Mr. Joey Concepcion, the presidential adviser on entrepreneurship. Thank you very much, sir, for joining us on News.Ph. Maraming Salamat po.
JOEY: Thank you, Pia.