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Sydney – Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez shared how the Philippines (PH) is preparing for the “future of work” during the CEO Forum held at the sidelines of ASEAN-Australia Special Summit last 17 March.

The CEO Forum gathered ASEAN and Australian business leaders to discuss six main topics vital to deepening economic integration. The topics, discussed in separate CEO Forum Roundtables, were (1) tourism destination development and aviation; (2) digital transformation in services; (3) advanced manufacturing and industry 4.0; (4) agri-food supply chain logistics; (5) future energy supply chains; and (6) infrastructure.

“The Philippines is developing inclusive innovation hubs to prepare our workforce, and allow them to adapt to technological advancements,” said the Trade Secretary.

The Department’s Inclusive Innovation Industrial Strategy (i3S), that tightens the synergy between the industry and academe, would require a future-ready workforce. Government policies and projects on education, internship, training must be aligned and pushed. Industry links with the academe should accelerate their R and D innovation efforts while academe’s interaction with the industry will ensure that their research works will be relevant and market driven.

According to Lopez, PH education system now is encouraged to create a value system that promotes creativity and innovation. Likewise, students are now taught to understand the how-to's and the why's.

The goal of these initiatives is to prepare the Filipino workforce for future jobs that include artificial intelligence (AI). “We need to create an AI workforce that is more inclusive and will give a chance to much more Filipinos to be employed,” Lopez said. Advancing these skills will also provide job security for current roles that are endangered by technology.

Meanwhile, Sec. Lopez cited President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's call for inclusive globalization, developing a symbiotic relation between big countries and small countries. This aims to encourage major economies to help developing countries, providing enabling programs that will build capacities in the developing nations and then ensuring as well that they open more market access for their products and services. This will certainly lead to a more shared prosperity in a globalizing world.

The event was opened by Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison MP who emphasized the importance of establishing greater linkages between both regions. Economic ministers were asked questions on trade, tourism, employment, and other cooperation initiatives between ASEAN and Australia.♦

Date of release: 21 March 2018

15 February 2018 – APEC  Business  Advisory  Council  (ABAC)  Philippines  members  call on  the  local  business  community  to  share  the  benefits  of  growth  and  embrace  the digital  economy.  These  echoed  the  key themes  of  the  first  ABAC  meeting  for  2018 held in Auckland, New Zealand last February 1-4.
 
Tomas  Alcantara,  chair  of  ABAC  Philippines,  noted  how  APEC  plays  a  critical  role towards  achieving  the  shared  goal  of  inclusivity  which  will  directly  impact  the domestic  economy. “APEC represents an important region because it accounts for 64% of the Philippines’ foreign direct investments, 84% of its exports, and 63% of the Overseas Filipino population.”
 
Prospects for Asia-Pacific indicate that the region remains abound with opportunities. According  to  IMF  experts, Asia-Pacific  GDP  would  expand  by  5.4% this  year,  far outstripping  the  rate  of  advanced  economies  at  2%. Forecast  for  the  Philippines is even  brighter  with  the  agency  predicting  a  6.7%  growth  for  2018. The recent conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership by 11 APEC economies, seen as one of the key pathways to an integrated Asia-Pacific economy, is welcomed as a positive step to regional inclusivity."
 
Therefore, the Philippines should continue to engage the APEC community with the following strategies: (1) push for greater connectivity, (2) promote further liberalization of   trade,   (3)   adapt   to   industrialization,   and   (4)   achieve   a people-centered development,” explained  Mr.  Alcantara. He stated that MSME development,  the services  agenda, and  infrastructure finance are among the policy areas where the Philippines is most active.
 
ABAC PH member Joanne de Asis emphasized in Auckland how infrastructure provides the backbone of an inclusive economy, and that adequate financing is the lifeblood of infrastructure development in the region. “Infrastructure projects are the concrete and tangible outcomes of APEC’s and ABAC’s role in promoting prosperity in the region,” Ms. De Asis said. “Infrastructure finance, particularly  an  opportunity opening up in a pool of Islamic infrastructure financing, represents an alternative, new channel for funding projects under the government’s Build, Build, Build program. We look  forward  to  playing  an  active  role  in  this  new  area  of  work within ABAC,” she added.
 
Another big focus of ABAC this year is digital economy. In line with this, the private sector body of APEC has created a new working group that would address digital and innovation issues.
 
For ABAC Philippines’ Guillermo Luz, digital innovation as a new policy  topic  within ABAC  is  particularly  relevant  for  the  Philippines, which  has a  strong  service-oriented economy. “We will look at the opportunities and adjustments to the economy that were brought about  by  technologies  such  as  artificial  intelligence,  robotics  and machine learning, among others. It is estimated that as much as 80% of existing jobs today may be changed significantly or outright eliminated in the next 40-50 years and replaced by even larger number of new jobs. The implications on today’s educational system and curriculum will be massive,” Mr. Luz said.
 
ABAC 2018 chair David Toua of Papua New Guinea (PNG) explained what this focus on digital innovation means for Asia-Pacific. “The digital economy provides a springboard for small business, women and other disadvantaged groups to take part in trade and connect around the region.” PNG  is  the chair  for  2018  of APEC and ABAC meetings and will host the APEC Summit later this year.
 
He noted, however, that the full potential of a “Digital Asia-Pacific” could not be realized  without investing  to  counter  the  digital  divide  that  risks  leaving the  most vulnerable groups behind. “In all economies, we also need to nurture a future-ready workforce. That means putting in place the right settings for digital infrastructure, skills and education, and region-wide digital business-friendly regulation,” Mr. Toua added.
 
Explaining the thrust of PNG’s chairmanship for 2018, Mr. Toua said, “Growth is clearly an essential but not a sufficient condition for secure and prosperous communities.” He further stated, “We need to look closely at our economies’ policies to ensure that people can   actually take advantage   of   the   opportunities that growth brings. Harnessing inclusive opportunities is a key mantra for this year.”
 
With this year’s theme, “Digitization and Innovation –Advancing Social Harmony,” other specific priorities discussed in the ABAC meeting include improving connectivity; structural reform especially in  the  services  sector;  reducing trade and investment barriers; creating opportunities for MSMEs; strengthening financial systems; and grappling with issues around sustainable growth such as food and energy security.♦

PASAY CITY—As part of the government’s objective to strengthen its economic relations with external partners, the Philippines (PH) recently (10 September 2017) discussed with Australia (AU) and New Zealand (NZ) bilateral trade issues to bring the Philippine relations with these two countries into a more strategic direction.

At the sidelines of the PH hosting of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting and Related Meetings, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, who also serves as the 2017 AEM chairperson, convened separate bilateral meetings with Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment Steven Ciobo, as well as with New Zealand Member of Parliament Chester Borrows.

Sec Ramon Lopez with Australian minister
PH Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez convened a bilateral meeting with Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment Steven Ciobo at the sidelines of the PH hosting of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings.

Sec. Lopez and Minister Ciobo discussed bilateral trade issues to enable PH to increase its exports to AU. In particular, Sec. Lopez raised the anti-dumping duty imposed on PH canned pineapples and resealable can end closures, as well as inquired as to AU’s processes to facilitate the entry of PH bananas to AU. Minister Ciobo reassured the DTI head of AU’s full cooperation with regard to the anti-dumping issues. He also expounded on AU’s quarantine procedures.

The Australian Minister highlighted that Australian businesses are looking into investing in PH, given the improved business environment in the country. However,

Minister Ciobo also raised the issue on the 60-40 foreign equity participation, to which Sec. Lopez remarked, “The government is trying to revise and repeal the relevant laws to enable increased investments to the country”.

PH also expressed its appreciation for all the assistance extended, in particular, those provided by the AU-led Aid for Trade initiative, as well as the scholarships granted to Filipino students through the Australia Awards.

Noting that AU is PH’s 16th major trading partner in 2016, with total trade valued at USD 1.38 billion, the DTI chief underscored that PH is open to doing more business missions ,which will provide an avenue for business in PH and AU to cite opportunities, as well as increase trade between both countries.

Meanwhile, Sec. Lopez also met with NZ Member of Parliament Chester Borrows same day.

The trade chief and the parliamentarian discussed how PH can look to NZ as an example for initiatives to improve the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) in PH, noting that NZ ranks 1st for EODB.

Sec Ramon Lopez and Usec Ceferino Rodolfo with NZ delegation
PH Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez (3rd from L) and other PH trade officials convened a bilateral meeting with New Zealand’s Member of Parliament Chester Borrows (3rd from R) and other New Zealand officials at the sidelines of the PH hosting of the 49th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings.

PH also shared that various government agencies, in particular the DTI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue have already streamlined procedures to facilitate businesses, and that other relevant government agencies are in the processes of improving their current systems.

“Key effort now is further streamlining and integration of the information system of the various agencies to cut the entire registration process into less than one hour once automated,” highlighted Sec. Lopez, adding the proposal to conduct more workshops/process studies with regard to EODB with NZ’s support.♦

 DTI Sec Lopez with NSW PM Berejiklian
Secretary Ramon M. Lopez (right) with New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian during their meeting on 7 December 2017.

MAKATI – The government of New South Wales (NSW) expressed its confidence in the Philippine (PH) economy and wants to explore strengthened trade and investment cooperation ties between PH and NSW.

In a meeting with Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez on 7 December 2017, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian conveyed their government’s intention to enhance their relationship with PH.

A state located on the east coast of Australia, NSW imports telecommunication equipment and parts, passenger motor vehicles, medicaments, refined petroleum, and computers.

“We welcome Australian investors and businesses that will help us uplift the lives of those at bottom of the pyramid and enable the Philippines to contribute in the global value chain. New South Wales has expressed strong confidence in our economy and the business environment stability under the Duterte Administration and wish to partner with us,” said Sec. Lopez.

The trade chief highlighted the growing manufacturing sector and encouraged NSW to partner with PH in research and development. The trade chief also shared the PH government’s initiatives in streamlining and automating services to improve doing business in the country.

“We will continue to work on opening areas of investment and increase employment and business opportunities for all Filipinos,” Sec. Lopez added. 

Meanwhile, Premier Berejiklian shared that many Australian businesses, especially in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, are attracted to PH’s encouraging economic state and enormous potential. Apart from the impressive 6.9% GDP growth, the NSW premier highlighted the good traits of Filipino workforce and the work culture they have.

With infrastructure-related construction as one of the priority areas for expansion of NSW, Premier Berejiklian also opened the discussion on a possible partnership through the sharing of expertise and technological know-how in the industry.♦

The Department of Trade and Industry welcomes Australia’s Sydney Harbor Tall Ships, a company operating cruises and private charters in Sydney Harbor as they open their call center in the Philippines.


During a meeting with DTI’s Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Sydney (PTIC-Sydney), Philippine Commercial Consul Kenneth Yap noted that SH Tall Ships’ owners cited the talent in the Philippines as one of the main reasons for choosing to locate here. “Filipinos share the same language and outlook as Australians,” Marty Woods, owner of the SH Tall Ships, remarked.

The Philippine operation is intended to support their business offering day trips in Sydney Harbor and exclusive charters, specifically in handling customer queries, bookings and accounting. The Philippine office will be based in Pampanga and will be registered for incentives with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) according to Mr. Yap. SH Tall Ships plans to start with an small complement but expects to grow the workforce based on the demand.

“The fact that we are able to attract big and small companies to set up in the Philippines shows the global competitiveness of the Philippine Information Technology- Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry,’” Yap added.

Sydney Harbor Tall Ships, a company offering cruises on Sydney Harbor on vintage wooden tall ships is owned and operated by husband and wife Marty and Lisa Woods. Among the famous ships they operate are the Southern Swan and the Soren Larsen.

Considered a “famous star of the sea”, the Soren Larsen was a cargo carrier sailing between Scandinavia, Iceland, Northern Europe and Britain. It was featured in a BBC TV series and on two European Films. It was also selected as the flagship of the First Re-enactment Voyage celebrating Australia’s Bicentennial. An accomplished voyager, the Soren Larsen sailed around the world visiting 25 countries and travelled 30,000 nautical miles.

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