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Aims to introduce, build IB cases in the region

As the promotion of Inclusive Business (IB) remains a key deliverable of the Philippines for its chairmanship of the ASEAN 2017, the Board of Investments (BOI), the industry development and investments promotion arm of the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) is hosting the ASEAN Inclusive Business (IB) Summit today (September 6) in Manila.

With the theme “Pioneering Change in the Way We Do Business,” the Summit will serve as the first high-level dialogue on IB in ASEAN. It aims at formally introducing and building the case for IB in ASEAN through exemplary models, instrumental government interventions, and regional support initiatives. The IB Summit also emphasized synergies between the private sector and the government as it gathered ASEAN Economic Ministers, Senior Officials, business champions and IB investors.

“As the ASEAN chair for 2017, the Philippines is championing the promotion of IB as a strategic measure to achieve inclusive, innovation-led growth. With the Summit, being the very first high-level gathering in the region, we are confident that this event will be a strategic take-off point to further promote and advocate IB and deepen engagements with low-income communities and micro-entrepreneurs as business partners,” said DTI Secretary and BOI Chairman Ramon Lopez.

According to the trade chief, the ASEAN region is in a strategic position for growth, expanding from 4.5 percent in 2016 to 4.8 percent in 2017. “Yet, over 300 million of our people across the region remain below subsistence levels. Hence, the challenge we face today is more than just ensuring robust growth for the coming decades: it is ensuring that this growth is felt evenly across the region and within countries where inequality pervades,” Sec. Lopez said.

“The Summit hopes to serve as an avenue to further stimulate ASEAN companies to develop IB models and integrate micro, small and medium (MSMEs) and underserved communities, making growth sustainable and inclusive for all. The discussions in the Summit will also serve as inputs on the way forward for IB in the ASEAN,” he said.

The Summit will have three panel sessions: Private Sector, Government, and Investor Panel Sessions. In the first session entitled Partnering for Competitive and Inclusive Business Models, IB companies from the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore to discuss how collaboration with external partners such as government contributed to the success of their IB models.

Selected ASEAN governments meanwhile will impart existing IB programs to sustain the IB agenda during the Government Panel Session: Enabling Inclusive Business Through Policy.

Business sustainability and impact experts will discuss IB financing support mechanisms during the Investor Panel Session: Inclusive Business Financing.

Sec. Lopez emphasized that by engaging low-income communities as partners, customers, suppliers or employees in value chains, IBs can transform communities into new markets and new sources of entrepreneurial talent. IBs go beyond philanthropy and invest in addressing the problems of the poor because it makes good business sense, according to him.

IB is emerging in ASEAN as strategies for MSME development continue to be supported by the ASEAN Member States (AMS). For instance, the ASEAN Inclusive Business Framework (AIBF) aims to strengthen enabling policy environments for IB in AMS, foster regional collaboration and intertwine ASEAN Economic Community Vision and ASEAN Socio-cultural Community vision. It further provides guidance for AMS to foster IB regionally and contribute to socio-economic goals. The framework also emphasizes the relevance and integration of IB to the Strategic Action Plan for SME Development (SAPSMED) goals, which collectively aims to strengthen MSME development. The BOI has also partnered with the ADB for an ASEAN+3 Inclusive Business Study to deepen understanding on the IB opportunities in the region. The study will be released in Q4 of 2017.

The Philippines, through BOI, has been pushing for the IB agenda since 2013 in pursuit of alleviating poverty by trickling down growth to the marginalized sector. Through accelerated advocacy and policy initiatives, the Philippines is recognized as an IB Champion in international fora. For instance, the G20 Global Platform on Inclusive Business launched the Philippine Case Study, which features motivations, institutional coordination mechanisms, and challenges that the country carries to foster IB. The Philippines also led the APEC High Level Dialogue on IB in 2015, following the joint ministerial statement to undertake more work on understanding IB in major sectors in partnership international organizations.

In line with socio-economic agenda of the administration to promote rural and value chain development toward increasing agricultural and rural enterprise productivity and rural tourism, the BOI continues to promote Inclusive Business especially in the sectors of agribusiness and tourism. This is complemented by the inclusion of IB in the 2017-2019 BOI Investment Priorities Plan, which provides fiscal incentives to IB projects in agribusiness and tourism.

“The exemplary models in the Philippines signal the strong potential of companies to create IB models. However, companies, even across ASEAN, needs to be further encouraged to disrupt business model and start doing business sustainably by integrating the poor at the core of their business operations,” Sec. Lopez concluded.

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