Interview: Alfred M Yao

How can the Philippines encourage the development of locally produced content and Philippine-branded products both domestically and abroad?

YAO: There are a myriad of local products that can successfully compete against their foreign counterparts, including Champion for laundry detergents, Hapee for toothpaste, EQ for diapers, C2 for flavoured drinks and others. These are all well run, hyper-competitive and gaining market share. In addition, Kenneth Cobonpue, Cora Jacob, Jean Goulbourn and 7D Mangoes are some of the other notable brands that our export industry has produced.

This is multi billion-dollar proof that we can be globally competitive, and these companies have strategies that are increasingly relevant as we open our borders to ASEAN brands, products and services, and as we compete in their local markets. Nonetheless, sustainability remains an issue that requires both the right business environment and the political will to sustain it.

What reforms would promote trade and complement ASEAN integration and trade agreements?

YAO: Full integration of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 offers a golden opportunity to institutionalise reforms that will enable the Philippines to maximise the benefits from trade and investment liberalisation and expansion. The adoption of trade facilitation measures, which aim to reduce transaction costs associated with unnecessarily complex Customs and border procedures and inefficient transit arrangements, is paramount for the country to effectively utilise the AEC and other economic partnership agreements, and to fully participate in regional and global markets.

As a strong supporter of key trade reform initiatives, PCCI urges the adoption of trade facilitation measures such as the immediate automation of Customs procedures, the implementation of both the National and ASEAN Single Window, and compliance with the Revised Kyoto Convention, as well as other related protocols through the passage of the Customs Modernisation Act.

These priorities mirror the business community’s desire to lock in long-term, sustainable economic gains, and will also pave the way for more effective participation in negotiations for advanced trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the ASEAN/Republic of the Philippines-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.

To what extent can the advocacy for Philippinemade products strengthen domestic industry?

YAO: Under our “Proudly-Philippine Made” advocacy and work programme, PCCI will craft the roadmaps to provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to technology, common service facilities, financing and other support to not only foster a competitive mindset, but help them find more niches for further value and supply chain participation. This will also facilitate the expansion, upgrade and meaningful participation of SMEs in ASEAN integration.

How can the Philippines foster more investment, bilateral trade and joint-venture opportunities?

YAO: The challenge is to effectively utilise business councils and trade attaches, as PCCI has done through our leadership in the ASEAN and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Councils, and the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry. We have also worked to expand bilateral cooperation with emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa. We enjoin our business councils to explore all of the available avenues that these councils and other networks provide for facilitating greater trade and investment.

For our part, we will keep working to attract non-ASEAN firms to continue using the Philippines as a production hub for the export of their products to the rest of ASEAN. This will not only promote more tie-ups with local firms, but also spur the development of other related industries and directly benefit the SME sector.