THE 33rd PHILIPPINE BUSINESS CONFERENCE: A Winning Formula
- Ann Corvera () - October 21, 2007 - 12:00am

Politics is best left to politicians, but when it involves policies aimed at making Philippine industries globally competitive, business and politics can mix. This year’s Philippine Business Conference (PBC) thus emphasizes public-private partnership as the “winning formula” to deliver on the promise of a competitive business environment, and fulfill the objective of the conference theme, “One. Global. Filipino.”

Francis Chua, chairman of the 33rd PBC to be held from Oct. 24 to 26, stresses that the government can change the business landscape with the right policies and a strong partnership with the private sector.

“When you say partnership, here is a government with a set of objectives, and we (in business) also have our own. By partnership, we look at synergy... if the government agenda helps the country or not,” Chua, who is also special envoy on trade and investment of the foreign affairs department, tells STARweek.

This week’s PBC at the Manila Hotel promises to be interesting, Chua says, as it will be the first time that measures on national competitiveness will be adopted.

“Never has there been a competitiveness council,” he says of the National Competitiveness Council created by President Arroyo last year as an offshoot of the 32nd PBC. A National Competitiveness Summit coinciding with the PBC will present a report card on the state of the Philippines’ global competitiveness, with discussions on education and human resources, infrastructure and energy, among other key topics.

“This is where we could improve on our products and services. The council objective is to (link) the different branches of government,” Chua says.

As is customary in all PBCs, a resolution consolidated from issues and concerns raised by the different chambers will be presented to the president on the last day of the event.

The success rate of PBC resolutions being adopted by the sitting president is “extremely high,” Chua says. “Historically, the PBC is well received by presidents.”

In 1946, the first National Convention of Filipino Businessmen was held, and the PBC today says a review of the records “points to a striking similarity between the economic issues in the past and those in the present.”

Leaders from various fields of business lent their expertise to put the Philippines on the competitive map.

A tradition in business conferences was set by the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (CCP), whose roots can be traced back to the 1890s with the establishment of the Camara de Commercio de Filipinas. The CCP was formally organized in 1903 during the start of the American occupation.

The 1970s saw the merging of the CCP and the Philippine Chamber of Industries and following this tradition, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) – which has become the “single voice” of Philippine business – decided to incorporate into its own system an annual business conference aimed at continuing linkages between the private sector and the government.

The focus may have changed through the years but the bottom line remains: to promote, develop, protect, safeguard and defend the interests of the Filipino business sector.

 Every year the problems change. Sometimes a single project will meet difficulties and when a problem comes up it’s hard to say who’s right or wrong,” Chua says of controversies involving the government and certain businesses, such as the storm that is the national broadband deal.

“We do propose to help any business organization,” Chua continues. “Those willing to present to us their case we would be more than happy to look into it... as long as at the end of the day, we are able to come up with something for the bigger interest of the nation.”

“We are simple businessmen, we are a simple business arm. We are there to help businesses, and politics is best left to the politicians,” he stresses.

Despite alleged lack of transparency in some of the government’s dealings, Chua insists that from experience, he sees the Philippines as one of the most transparent nations, if one were to look from a different angle, such as newspaper monopoly – citing Singapore as an example – or China’s deficiency in press freedom.

“We expose everything and to that point, we are very transparent,” says Chua, who is also special envoy on trade and investment to China, honorary consul general of Peru in Manila, and president emeritus of the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Foundation, Inc. This 59-year-old businessman also is former president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Inc. He heads various companies engaged in information and communication technology, construction, manufacturing and financial trading.

In early 2000, Chua re-established the Buy Pinoy Movement together with the DTI to prop up Filipino products.

During our interview at his office along EDSA in San Juan, Chua points out his office only serves Filipino-made products to guests, like the local version of ready-to-drink green tea and tinapay usually stuffed with national delicacies like adobo.

“There are a lot of Pinoy products that we should be proud of,” says Chua, even as he admits that “it’s very hard to sell the Pinoy idea” and points out that the PBC is an important venue to “redeem” our very own products and services.

Rapid global changes brought about by technological innovation, liberalization of markets and business development may come off as daunting for a developing economy like ours, but the PBC leadership believes this actually provides vast opportunities for Filipino entrepreneurs.

The gathering of hundreds of leaders from here and abroad is expected to develop synergies and partnerships between government and business.

The PBC will hold a special plenary session on the legislative agenda as well as a special judiciary session with the Chief Justice.

With a “no-holds-barred, public-private interaction and dialogue for key policy initiatives in the country,” the PBC expects to become the building tool for the global Filipino entrepreneur as he situates himself in a dynamic world economy.

Chua says the PBC hopes the local governments will collaborate more with the business sector for investments to come in.

Recognizing the efforts and accomplishments of local government units (LGUs), the PBC yearly hands out awards such as the “most business-friendly LGU” awarded last year to Trento, Agusan del Sur for the municipality category and Quezon City for the city category.

In keeping with tradition, the most outstanding chamber award is also conferred, with the Davao CCI bagging it last year.

This year’s PBC will also focus on investing in small and medium enterprises with its own plenary session.

The PBC kicked off last month a series of Area Business Conferences for South Luzon, NCR, North Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. As part of the main event, business matching sessions will be held to identify and open available business opportunities here and abroad.

Chua explains that the PCCI “has always been at the forefront to help businesses. We come up with seminars to help the industries on any topic. We go out of our way to give them the necessary know-how.”

The PCCI is a non-stock, non-profit organization comprised of 1,200 direct members, 98 local chambers, 122 industry associations, and 30 foreign business councils.

“Each year we are going to come up with a better presentation. When you go to a PBC, it’s not just plain speeches. We are also bringing in new technology for our presentation so it’s entertainment in a sense. I will not reveal too much because that’s where we will attract you to come,” he smiles.

The PBS will be held from Oct. 24 to 26 at the Manila Hotel. For  more details, call 896-4549 to 53.

BUSINESS CHUA COUNTRY PBC PLACE
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