he Aboitiz Group has joined the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC) in advocating for closer coordination between the public and private sectors as well as a digital approach toward economic recovery and resilience amid the current Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We know that no country in the world, regardless of socio-economic status, can claim that they were well-prepared to handle COVID-19. This further highlights the need to maximize regional cooperation to share resources. Countries need to come together to address the gaps in both resources and strategy on the road to ‘building back better’,” Sabin M. Aboitiz, ABAC member and Aboitiz Group President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said in his keynote speech at the virtual ABAC Philippines Digital Innovation Forum last October 21, 2020.
“The private sector must be one with the government in achieving the objectives of digital transformation, so economies can recover and people can sustain themselves. It will not be easy, but we need to work together not just to live, but to sustainably thrive, under a ‘new normal’,” Aboitiz stated.
The forum–which gathered representatives from the private sector, government, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (national and regional network), Makati Business Club (regional affiliates), digital firms, other business organizations and chambers of commerce, the Aboitiz Group, Ayala Enterprise Circle, and SIKAP–served as a learning platform to share best practices and successful models in APEC economies on digital innovation for economic recovery and resilience.
It focused on key areas of Digital Innovation for Financial Inclusivity, Retooling and Repurposing in the Digital Age, and Enabling MSMEs toward Economic Recovery & Resilience.
Discussion inputs will be used to develop the ABAC Philippines work program, focusing on the Digital Innovation track, from 2020 to 2022.
Last July, APEC reported that COVID-19 has already caused a 3.7% drop in the Asia Pacific region’s economic growth for 2020, with the total output loss at USD2.9 trillion.
Thus, APEC’s main recommendations for member economies are to invest in digital technology, improve technological infrastructure, and equip people with digital skills.
According to Aboitiz, a public-private partnership that is strengthened by a strong digital approach is also a key solution for economies moving forward.
“Our collective experience these past months also points to how vital it is to have strong public-private collaboration. According to the Asian Development Bank, we particularly need close cooperation in order to protect consumers against cyber-crimes and fraud, prevent illegal activities, enhance cybersecurity to prevent cyberattacks, and protect personal data and privacy.”
Aboitiz also emphasized that a digital transformation was essential to keeping companies afloat during the pandemic, including the Aboitiz Group.
“Some companies struggled to make the shift while for others, it was simply like flipping a switch. Aboitiz belongs to the latter, thanks to the digital transformation efforts we have put in place several years back, but more importantly, our team was mentally ready which is the hardest part and takes the longest time,” Aboitiz explained.
In recent years, the Aboitiz Group has embarked on a digital transformation journey via a number of innovative initiatives.
These are the Aboitiz Corporate Center’s agile workplaces, the Aboitiz Innovation Laboratory (a.Lab), the Aboitiz Group Online Resource Application (AGORA), UnionBank’s fully-digital The ARK branches, and rooftop solar panels for AboitizLand’s The Outlets, a 9.3-hectare commercial, lifestyle and leisure development in Batangas, just to name a few.
Aside from Aboitiz, other forum speakers included Vladimir Glasinovic, Talento Digital Chile Executive Director; Michael Fung, SkillsFuture Singapore Deputy Chief Executive; Lito Tayag, Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines Chairman; Peter Franken, ASEAN Financial Innovation Network Director; Ellen Joyce Suficiencia, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Center for Inclusion Learning and Advocacy Director; Jose Paulo Soliman, UnionBank Vice President and Head of SME Platforms; Michelle Curry, TOQQA Global Founder and CEO; and Rafaelita Aldaba, Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary.
The ABAC was created in 1995 by APEC leaders to provide advice on the implementation of the Osaka Action Agenda.
It currently serves as the voice of the business sector, specifically providing information on business-related issues or providing a business perspective on specific areas of cooperation.