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ABAC PH, APEC VOF PH alumni meet for virtual get-together

July 9 – The ABAC Philippines team led by member Guillermo Luz held an online meeting with APEC Voices of the Future Philippine alumni to catch up following the lockdown implemented since March.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to disruption of business operations in light of the quarantine protocols and social distancing measures imposed. Under the General Community Quarantine currently imposed in Metro Manila, movement is still limited to accessing essential goods and services. Also allowed are select work in offices and industries but operating on prescribed capacity.

This has significantly affected Nikki Figueroa (APEC VOF 2016), who is heavily involved in her family’s mall playground business. Their company gave partial 13-month pay in advance, along with the 2-month wage subsidy from government, to their employees to alleviate the impact of the lockdown. When asked about the prospects of fully reopening the economy, Nikki said, “It will take awhile. This is about staying at home, trying to survive, and staying alive.”

Others shared their experience in working from home (WFH) during the past few months. Anna Sarte (APEC VOF 2015) noted how having several WFH days during the work week has eased their organization’s transition during the lockdown. She emphasized how this period can be seen as an opportunity for organizations to undertake their digital transformation. “Strategizing, transitioning to virtual marketplaces – staying at home has given us more time to do that,” she said.

Several alumni have launched and are involved in efforts to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities. Sam Tamayo (APEC VOF 215) is the founder of Project SMILE, which has distributed food kits and supplies to marginalized communities in Cainta, as well as foods and meals to frontliners in Metro Manila. Katherine Khoo (APEC VOF 2015) is a program manager in Villgro Philippines, a social enterprise incubator founded in India. To address the impact of COVID-19 on enterprises and livelihoods, the organization will extend lending to women entrepreneurs at zero interest rates. Jason Gavina (APEC VOF 2011) is doing community work in [ ] to help Aeta enterprises.

On the civic front, Gella Leano (APEC VOF 2015) is involved Movement for Good Governance, a reform-oriented coalition of individuals and organizations chaired by former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Solita Monsod. She helped organize a virtual townhall meeting on West Philippine Sea which was attended by 13,000 online participants.

The ABAC PH team, in turn, shared how the current situation has led ABAC to decide to resort to virtual meetings for the rest of the year until 2021.  Mr. Luz discussed how this compelled ABAC PH to adapt its work program, which will now include a series of virtual events featuring resource persons from APEC to discuss the pressing issues in light of the pandemic.

Apart from sharing current initiatives and involvements, the ABAC PH team and APEC VOF PH alumni also checked in with each other to find out how others were doing in the past few months. The group emphasized the need to take care of mental health especially given the heightened uncertainty with current developments.

At the close of the online gathering, Mr. Luz enjoined everyone to sustain the APEC VOF PH alumni network. “Let us keep this group alive. This can be a platform for collaboration of our efforts. It is also important to show that we can be there for each other,” he said.