• Aquino tells APEC: ‘Think out of the box’

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    PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday exhorted his government counterparts and business leaders in the Asia Pacific region to “think out of the box” and not be constrained by “certain limits” that may be counterproductive to a common agenda of productivity and stability.

    “APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) is unique in that it does not produce binding commitments. This only means that we are not confined by certain limits: leaders can think out of the box … When we come together in APEC, we are united by the desire to bring stability, security, and prosperity to our peoples,” the President said in his keynote address during the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) summit in Makati City.

    Aquino particularly underscored the important role played by SMEs in spurring economic growth, not only in the Philippines but in the entire Asia-Pacific region as well, as the country leads efforts to further enhance the sector on a regional scale.

    “If MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) can be strong drivers of inclusive growth in the Philippines, we believe that the same is true for all of APEC,” he stressed, noting that SMEs already comprise over 97 percent of enterprises, generate more than 50 percent of employment, and account for up to 50 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the region.

    “That is why the Philippines has chosen to make fostering SMEs’ participation in regional and global markets a priority of APEC 2015,” stressed Aquino, the chairman of this year’s APEC meetings.

    Aquino said he wanted Filipino MSMEs to be able to participate more in APEC trade and help these small businesses “make the most of the vast market that regional economic integration provides.”

    “In fact, we want to achieve the same for all SMEs across APEC member-economies … At the same time, having seen how empowering our countrymen to succeed in their businesses leads to the creation of even more opportunities for other Filipinos, the Philippines is determined to lead efforts to spur the growth of APEC SMEs,” he told SME leaders.

    In the local front, Aquino claimed that under his watch, MSMEs now comprised over 99 percent of all domestic business enterprises and 63.7 percent of total employment.

    “These statistics alone would be reason enough for government to support the sector but we see far beyond the numbers. For us, these statistics represent Filipinos opening doors of opportunity for so many other Filipinos. Imagine the growth of these small businesses once wider markets are available to them, and once they become more efficient at running their businesses,” he explained.

    According to the president, there are existing initiatives that benefit SMEs in the entire region such as the APEC Crisis Management Center, which assists in coping with economic crises, and the APEC SME Innovation center and the APEC Start-up Accelerator Network, which promote entrepreneurship and innovation.

    He further added that training in business continuity planning was likewise available, to help SMEs minimize business disruptions in the event of calamities.

    “Through the Access of Small Enterprises to Sound Lending Opportunities, which has the acronym of ASENSO, which means progress in Tagalog, over P153.1 billion has been released to over 174,000 enterprises from 2010 to 2014. The implementation of the Magna Carta for MSMEs has likewise played a significant role in microfinance. By requiring banks to allocate ten percent of their loan portfolio for credit to MSMEs, over P427 billion has been lent to Filipino entrepreneurs as of June 2015,” the president said.

    Aquino said access to capital was only a part of the overall effort. He stressed that “maximizing” these funds was equally important.

    “Our Department of Trade and Industry pioneered the establishment of Shared Service Facilities, or common production centers for MSMEs. 1,305 SSFs have been put up around the entire archipelago as of September this year, to meet the needs of a variety of sectors,” he claimed.

    Aquino also noted that throughout the year of the country’s hosting of APEC, both the government and Filipino businessmen had broadened the scope and given intensified attention to innovation, entrepreneurial development, business resiliency, finance, and capacity-building for MSMEs.

    He said significant commitments were made through the Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs, which will focus on priority actions in trade facilitation, trade finance, e-commerce, and institutional support. The Iloilo Initiative likewise puts MSMEs front and center by promoting dialogue among these firms, large businesses and policy makers; and promoting MSME participation in global value chains and international trade, among others.

    “This is the basic principle that underscores the inclusive growth agenda of our administration, one we have sought to uphold in our hosting of APEC: that, whether we live in the Philippines, Korea, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Russia, or any other member-economy, each and every citizen has a paramount contribution to progress,” Aquino said.

    “Each and every one has the capacity to bring about positive change. And, whether we lead governments or businesses, when we work hard to ensure that every person is empowered to realize that inherent capacity, we are creating drivers of growth. We are enabling partners who will work with us, towards realizing the stability, security, and prosperity to which we all aspire,” he added.

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