ABAC PH digital innovation, infrastructure
ABAC Philippines headed by Chair Tomas Alcantara discussing ABAC PH work plan with the Department of Trade and Industry led Secretary Ramon Lopez and Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo. (from left) Naisy Abastillas, DTI-BITR, Benedict Uy, DTI-FTSC, Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo, ABAC Philippines Chair Tomas Alcantara, Secretary Ramon Lopez, Bill Luz, ABAC PH, Renato Salud, ABAC PH.

The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Philippines has added digital innovation and infrastructure to its priority areas. Along with its thrusts on MSMEs, Non-Tariff Barriers, and Services, ABAC Philippines seeks to tackle the impact of digital technologies on education and future jobs and take advantage of regional opportunities that may complement the national government’s ambitious infrastructure push.

The broadened scope of work was announced following the conclusion of the first ABAC meeting for 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand last February, where these issues emerged as highly important for the Philippines.

Specifically, ABAC Philippines is organizing a public-private task force which will lead in formulating the strategic roadmap for digital innovation. The envisioned roadmap will be linked to government policies, educational system and training programs. This effort is critical given that 48% of the activities of Filipino employees – equating to 18.2 million jobs – could be automated, based on a paper by international consulting firm McKinsey. Sectors most affected include agriculture, retail trade, and manufacturing.

According to ABAC Philippines chair Tomas Alcantara, “Digital innovation will bring us to the future. However, many of the jobs we have today will disappear 20 years from now. What are the skills and the competencies that a Filipino worker must have to ‘survive’ in the future? What kind of educational system will we need to prepare our children? These are critical questions that must be answered to ensure that the Philippines will not be left behind.”

The council also aims to tap into international Islamic funds which are currently estimated at US$70.8 billion. It will facilitate the establishment of bilateral arrangements of the Philippines with economies such as Malaysia to secure successful financing of infrastructure projects.

“Adequate financing is the lifeblood of infrastructure development in the region. I see the potential of Islamic investments in unlocking infrastructure development hurdles especially in Mindanao,” according to ABAC member Joanne de Asis.

Meanwhile, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez expressed his continued support for the work of ABAC Philippines and shared valuable inputs on digital innovation.

“We are excited for the outcomes of ABAC Philippines’ initiatives. As the government consistently pushes for innovation, DTI is committed to assisting the council to ensure that their projects are aligned with our efforts and priorities,” said Sec. Lopez.

DTI has assigned counterparts to each of the council’s work program. The agency will also assist in the implementation of ABAC Philippines’ local projects.

As the voice of Philippine business in APEC, the council will continue to represent the private sector in the second ABAC meeting to be held in Tokyo, Japan this April.♦

Date of release: 16 April 2018