(This article, with some light editing, was lifted from the Inaugural Speech delivered by the author as the President of the Management Association of the Philippines for 2021.)
First, a look back at 2020.
The year 2020 was unexpectedly a year of severe and multiple crises.
We had and have a Health Crisis.
The COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic hit the world and the Philippines like a giant sledgehammer. Global statistics show over 94 million COVID-19 cases, over 2 million deaths everywhere, comparisons with the 1918 Spanish Flu, and fears of a deadlier second wave.
End December Philippines Department of Health indicators report 439,796 cases, a 92.77% recovery rate, a 5.28% active rate (25,024 cases), and a 1.95% Death Rate (9,244 deaths).
Sadly, an ASEAN Post graph shows the Philippines as second worst in Asia, with the dubious distinction of having the longest lockdown in the world.
Who would have thought that “Staying Alive” would be the Best Option in 2020?
We had and have an Economic Crisis.
Global Source Partners reports a 10% drop in GDP in the first three quarters of 2020, and Oxford and Haver point to our worst recession ever. ASEAN Analysts GDP growth expectations for the Philippines went from one of the highest at the start of the year to the lowest in ASEAN by year end.
Worse, the Economist, in its Dec. 15 issue, opined that the Philippine economy will be “the most vulnerable to COVID-19’s long-term effects from 2019 to 2025.”
Fortunately, thanks to the able stewardship of Secretary Sonny Dominguez and Bangko Sentral Governor Ben Diokno, we remain financially strong as a country. In fact, Fitch Ratings reaffirmed today the Philippines BBB Investment Grade rating with Stable outlook. Who would have thought that EBITDAC (Earnings before Interest, Depreciation, and Coronavirus) would become an appropriate accounting measurement in 2020?
We had and have an Environmental Crisis.
Cries for Climate Change have been upgraded to Climate Crisis and even Climate Emergency, as we enter a critical decade to reverse carbon emission deterioration or face an unlivable planet. Unfortunately, the Philippines is ranked third worldwide in Disaster Vulnerability, and the year end floods of typhoons Rolly and Ulysses were living testaments of the effects of climate change on our country.
Appropriately, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) selected Federico “Piki” Lopez as its Management Man of the Year 2020 for his role as a Clean Energy champion.
We had and have an Education Crisis.
We are facing a Learning Crisis that threatens the growth trajectory of the nation. Pre-pandemic, our students were already falling behind in reading, math, science, and 21st century skills. Three outside international assessors ranked us last (PISA 2018, 78 economies; and TIMSS 2019, 64 economies) or bottom half (SEA-PLM 2019, six participating ASEAN countries). What more under pandemic 2020, when schools were downgraded to remote learning, unequal Wi-Fi, and 2.7 million unenrolled students?
We had and have a Social Justice Crisis.
The Social Weather Stations (SWS) reported that in a nationwide poll conducted from Nov. 21 to 25, 2020, 48%, or 12 MILLION FAMILIES rated themselves as “Poor,” and another 36% “Borderline Poor.”
Unfortunately, inequality reigns, as the poor and the small businessmen have been hit hardest by the Health, Economic, Environmental, Education and Social Justice Crises described earlier.
LOOKING FORWARD TO 2021
Fortunately, our silver lining is that we have a strong and smoothly functioning MAP Board, committee chairmen, and 1,000+ members.
MAP’s 2020 Board led by the dynamic and articulate lawyer Francis Lim had a superlative output-driven year: more activities, more members, more fundraising, more national issue statements, and more influence in the business and national community.
Your 2021 Board’s Mission and Vision is to take this to the next level with a main theme of “The Great Reset: Leading for the Common Good.”
In keeping with the five crises mentioned earlier, our main thrusts will be to: safely reopen the economy; ESG (environmental, social justice, and governance); and member benefits via best practice sharing.
We have organized ourselves with nine capable and dedicated Governors handling 26 Committees clustered into three main groups — Safely Reopen the Economy with 11 committees; Shared Prosperity and ESG with three committees; and, Internal/Member Benefits with 12 committees.
Our Committee Chairs are a carefully chosen mix of some experienced, some fresh thinking Chairpersons who will lead for the Common Good.
The activities in 2021 will revolve around:
o 12 monthly General Membership Meetings and three Major Conferences on Diversity, Annual CEO, and Next Generation themes;
o As needed, National Issue statements, coordinated with former Presidents Francis Lim and Riza Mantaring, and, where appropriate, co-signed with other Business Associations;
o Committee-initiated Education Webinars to share best practices; and,
o Membership and Fellowship events to encourage networking and camaraderie.
We would like to start on time, and keep all activities at two hours maximum. We foresee a first semester of mostly Zoom meetings, but hope to return to limited face to face events, particularly for the Major Conferences in the second half of the year.
INITIAL 2021 MAP POLICY DIRECTIONS
Here are a few initial thoughts on some policy prescriptions that we will push.
Health is wealth, and we thank Secretary Dominguez and the Government for significantly funding vaccinations for our frontliners and the less fortunate.
To help our members safely reopen their businesses and the economy, MAP itself will focus on how best to secure vaccines for its (smaller) member companies who are not included in the current government priority lists.
We will also advocate for public transportation that provides mobility that is essential for the economy and society to function properly and be productive.
For the Economic front, our main immediate goal is to push for the passage of the CREATE Bill which will reduce Corporate Income Taxes to 20% for smaller businesses, establish 10-year sunset periods for specific incentive industries, and provide a much needed P250-billion stimulus to safely reopen the economy.
MAP is joining at least 30 business organizations in signing within this week the Joint Statement of Support for CREATE and the Joint Letters to House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Senate President Vicente Sotto urging them to act quickly on the enactment of CREATE.
For the medium term, we will push certain policy recommendations of a MAP-UA&P (University of Asia and the Pacific) study commissioned in 2020. In particular, we wish to promote ease-of-doing-business government digitization efforts and improved public information communications and technology (ICT) connectivity.
For the Environmental front, we will work towards an appropriate policy prescription. MAP supports the development of a natural capital accounting bill to measure physical units of terrestrial and marine resources of the country, as well as three environmental projects in Occidental Mindoro, Laguna, and Batangas. We shall also balance these with data-based analysis of our energy security and water security situation.
For Education, we will collaborate with Philippine Business for Education Development (PBED) to highlight the learning crisis that the Philippines is in today, particularly at a time of unequal access among our learners, and the lack of a clear plan to bring our students back to school safely. If not urgently addressed, we may end with a South African university message that closes with the sobering words, “The collapse of education is the collapse of a nation.”
But most of all, we should push out of our comfort zone, and pay equal attention to Social Justice issues, and to “Lead for the Common Good.”
We need jobs — wholesale and retail trade, agriculture and fisheries, and construction make up 50% of total jobs, and we have to reopen and revive these sectors to alleviate poverty.
We need food — particularly for the 48% self-perceived poor families, either through public sector Bayanihan Act stimulus programs for the poor, or private sector revival of business, economic, and payroll activities.
We need values formation — We need to work on changing attitudes and behaviors of the Filipino youth and the common man on the street, in order to achieve a meaningful and sustainable change in society.
In closing, I would like to appeal to the 1,000 + strong MAP membership to support your Board, and to share member best practices to help each other and our national community.
We are a vibrant, purposeful, and well-meaning national private sector association, and together, we can make a significant impact on the Health, Economic, Environmental, Education, and Social Justice fronts. We are also a constructive partner of government, and a helpful supporter of value-adding non-governmental organization causes.
Aurelio “Gigi” R. Montinola III is the Chairperson of the Far Eastern University.