ABAC Philippines calls for greater public-private cooperation to strengthen innovation
At the first APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) meeting (ABAC 1) this year, ABAC Philippines member Sabin Aboitiz pushed for greater innovation especially in the services sector as a strategy for growth and recovery in the Asia-Pacific region. Aboitiz sits as co-chair of the Regional Economic Integration Working Group (REIWG) leading ABAC’s work on strengthening services trade and investment.
“We need to focus on the ‘Next Big Thing’ by building economies and policies for the future, building ecosystems and environments that foster innovation and disruption to the fullest, and strengthening collaboration between the public and private sectors,” said the President & CEO of the Aboitiz Group.
In the ABAC’s services work plan for the year, Aboitiz, participating virtually from Manila during the REIWG meeting, underscored the need for economies and governments to create enabling ecosystems and think more innovatively to arrive at the necessary policy and structural reforms. “We need to focus on and invest in people first. In the Philippines there is evidence that our people are developing their skills, thinking, and values with each succeeding generation,” he added. “As services begin to innovate and move up the value chain, priority must also be given towards upskilling workers and investing in education, R&D, technology, and data science in order to ensure a future-ready workforce that can be absorbed by the sector.”
Under Thailand’s chairmanship, the Council held its first hybrid meeting – in-person and virtual attendees, last 15-18 February in Singapore. The region’s top business executives last met in Sydney in February 2020 and have since shifted to virtual meetings due to COVID.
ABAC 2022 Chair and Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, Supant Mongkolsuthree, highlighted that under this year’s ABAC theme, “Embrace, Engage, Enable,” the pandemic remained a central concern. “COVID is still a reality. But 2022 is our chance to embrace the new normal – by safely reopening borders through more equitable access to vaccination and more regionally-coherent approaches for travel, along with efforts to smooth out supply chain disruptions. We can also enable greater productivity and growth through boosting structural reforms.”
To strengthen resilience in the region against future pandemics, ABAC is also developing a PPP framework for pandemic risk transfer financing. ABAC Philippines’ Joanne de Asis will be leading this priority as co-chair of the Finance and Economics Working Group. “This year, ABAC will be exploring innovative solutions to address future pandemics, taking off from our previous work on disaster risk financing and insurance, such as the catastrophe bonds.”
In its report to President Rodrigo Duterte last year, ABAC Philippines recommended two key and urgent priorities relevant for the Philippines: economic recovery and resilient sustainable growth. “Addressing these priorities needs strong public-private collaboration and broader stakeholder engagement. This requires an enabling policy environment to facilitate trade and investment flows, support ease of doing business, improve, harness human capital in a digital economy, as well as strengthen the environment and resource protection, and disaster risk management practices,” explained Tomas Alcantara, ABAC Philippines chair.