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I am sharing with you, dear readers, a photo that holds special significance to me. This was taken during the launch of Pilipinas Angat Lahat. The event was held in Malacañang on Aug. 14, 2018, and in attendance were two presidents, then-president Rodrigo Duterte and former president and then-House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. My family was there to witness it, as was my father, Jose ‘Joecon’ Concepcion, Jr.
It was a particularly proud moment for me, as the event was the culmination of so much hard work spent building the alliance between government and the private sector to help bring us closer to poverty alleviation and job generation through MSME development. I believe, and still do, that the alliance we called Pilipinas Angat Lahat was a worthy pursuit for the organizations that joined the movement. Our MSMEs needed the help of the big companies so they can move up and achieve scale, and they needed a favorable climate from the government to make it easier for them to compete on a level playing field.
I made sure that my father, who has been a lifelong advocate of Filipino industry, was present on this memorable occasion. Before sustainable and inclusive growth became buzzwords, he had already embedded them in his work as a businessman, a civil servant, and as a private citizen. He believed that business can do so much to contribute to nation-building. The Pilipinas Angat Lahat alliance attested to the potential of private-sector commitment in realizing an inclusive economy for the Filipino people. Through this alliance, we empowered our brothers and sisters to promote an entrepreneurial Philippines.
Several programs grew in partnership with the members of the alliance. Since then, we have continued these initiatives nationwide and have even adapted them to online platforms when the pandemic brought in-person activities to a halt.
Over the years, the programs at Go Negosyo have experienced growth, bringing formal mentoring to thousands of active and aspiring entrepreneurs under our Kapatid Mentor Me program, the Kapatid Agri Mentor Me Program, and 3M on Wheels, the expanded version of our very popular Mentor Me on Wheels roadshow. A reflection of the exciting world of digitalization are our Digital Summit and the growth of our Go Negosyo Facebook page into the NGO page, with the most number of followers here in the Philippines. Our Go Nego Shows on Facebook Live grew its audience quickly during the pandemic, and today continues to propagate entrepreneurship on social media.
Even our regional initiatives continue to bear fruit.
The ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network or AMEN has now entered its second phase, spreading far and wide across the region the advocacy whose seeds originated in the Philippines. AMEN is our legacy project I intend to continue as ASEAN Business Advisory Council chair. It provides a platform where mentors can develop world-class teaching modules for the MSMEs in the region, thus facilitating regional cooperation that will, hopefully, propel MSME-led growth in the ASEAN.
Digitalization among our MSMEs has also progressed in leaps and bounds. Back in 2018, digitalizing MSMEs was already on our horizon, even as cash remained king and digital tools were out of reach for our microentrepreneurs. Digital technology has the potential to make it easier for our entrepreneurs to go beyond the restrictions of brick and mortar, and it can even make capital more accessible. The mobility restrictions during the pandemic accelerated digitalization; fortunately, the groundwork had already been laid, making it possible for both sellers and buyers to plug in with ease.
Today, not only can small entrepreneurs access more markets, small loans are being made available through the very same platforms. Through these platforms, micro and small entrepreneurs can be freed from usurious loans, and are finally able to get a leg up in the competition.
Little did we realize, however, that digitalization would one-up our expectations. Now there are several platforms aimed at helping the sari-sari stores professionalize their systems and make their backrooms more efficient. The possibilities remain endless.
Four years on, the members of the Pilipinas Angat Lahat alliance we brought together in 2018 and whom we have come to call the “Big Brothers”, have also grown their own programs, anchored on the pillars on which our advocacy stands: access to financial support, broader market reach, and mentorship for our MSMEs.
Last Aug. 26, they reaffirmed their commitment during the 2022 MSME Summit by signing the Kapatid Angat Lahat Pledge, a full four years after our initial pledge. The goal remains the same: to bring about sustainable, inclusive economic growth through MSME development.
Despite the hardships that we all faced during the pandemic, it did bring us many valuable insights. The biggest takeaway for me was that so much can be accomplished when the government and the private sector work together to solve problems. We worked together to keep our population safe and protected, and persevered in our efforts to save the economy. The ideals of what we launched in Malacañang back in 2018 are very much alive and well today, and this is what this photo serves to remind me.