22 September 2018

Published also in Business Mirror

HANOI, Vietnam—Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and Asean heads of state addressed concerns about automation replacing the work force, especially those in the manufacturing sector, even as they agreed that corporations and entrepreneurs need to change business models to adapt to automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and other developments brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Lopez was the Philippine representative at the World Economic Forum on Asean (WEF) from September 11 to 13 in Hanoi, Vietnam, themed “Asean 4.0: Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” At the sidelines of the WEF, Lopez also discussed prospective public-private partnerships (PPPs) with Nissan Ltd. and Fullerton Health.

“Rather than replacing people and bringing down employment, technology creates new, higher-paying jobs,” Lopez said. “For example, the entry of ATMs was expected to replace bank tellers and bring down employment figures, but business and employment growth continued and there were just adjustments in the nature of jobs.”

During the forum, it was agreed on that countries must shift to e-government systems and reskill their people. On intraregional trade, technology will connect the data windows of customs offices through the Asean Single Window.

Also in attendance at the WEF were Prime Ministers Nguyen Xuan Phuc (Vietnam), Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore), Hun Sen (Cambodia), Thongloun Sisoulith (Lao PDR); Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong (Thailand); and President Joko Widodo (Indonesia).

The Philippines is already preparing for the 4IR, through initiatives lead by the DTI.  At the forefront is the i3S or the Inclusive, Innovation-led, Industrial Strategy, wherein academe, industry and government sectors collaborate to solve business innovation challenges.

The agency is also streamlining and automating the business registration process through Project One, a three-phase project that will produce one portal, one form and one business number. The portal is already accessible at www.projectone.ph.

For entrepreneurs, the Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC) was converted in an MSME academy earlier this year. The academy offers several training modules on e-commerce.

Meanwhile, Nissan Ltd., headed by Senior Vice President Yutaka Sanada, expressed interest in bringing electric vehicles in the country. The company also wants to collaborate on training Filipino engineers.

“We need to harvest the power of public-private collaboration to bring the benefits of advanced mobility to our roads,” Nissan Asia & Oceania (@NissanAO) said in a tweet about the meeting.

Lopez also met with David Sin, co-founder, group president and deputy chairman of Fullerton Healthcare Corp. Lopez encouraged Sin to invest in the Philippine pharmaceuticals industry and connected him to relevant government agencies to explore a PPP.

“The President is pushing for a more unified, effective and low-cost health care for the Filipino people. I saw the potential of this company to partner with our government to provide accessible and affordable health care in the country,” Lopez said.

The trade chief also opened the similar opportunity to pharmaceutical companies he met through the EU-Asean Business Council led by Donald Kanak. The Philippines, Lopez said, is seeking investors to improve research and development in the industry to produce low-cost, good-quality medicines such that of India.