18 April 2018

Published also in Business Mirror

In Photo: Abac Philippines headed by ChairmanTomas Alcantara (center, left) discusses the group’s work plan with Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez (center, right) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo (second from left). They are joined by (from left) Naisy Abastillas of the DTI’s Bureau of International Trade Relations; Benedict Uy of the DTI’s Foreign Trade Service Corps; and Bill Luz and Renato Salud of Abac Philippines.

THE APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Philippines has added digital innovation and infrastructure to its priority areas. Along with its thrusts on micro, small and medium enterprises, 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 in 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 road map for digital innovation. The envisioned road map will be linked to government policies, educational system and training programs. This effort is critical given that 48 percent 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.

ABAC Philippines Chairman Tomas Alcantara said, “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 $70.8 billion. It will facilitate the establishment of bilateral arrangements of the Philippines with economies like 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,” ABAC member Joanne de Asis said.

Meanwhile, Trade Secretary Ramon M. 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’s 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,” Lopez said.

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

As the voice of Philippine business in the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference, the council will continue to represent the private sector in the second ABAC meeting to be held in Tokyo, Japan, this April.


ABAC was created by APEC Leaders in 1995 to be the primary voice of business in APEC. Each economy has three members who are appointed by the respective Leaders. They meet four times a year in preparation for the presentation of their recommendations to the Leaders in a dialogue that is a key event in the annual Leaders Meeting.

The Makati Business Club is the secretariat of ABAC Philippines.

The Department of Foreign Affairs hosts the APEC National Secretariat under the supervision of the Office of the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations.