‘Expand in Asean’


PHILIPPINE companies are more competitive now and should seize growth opportunities overseas, particularly in the international Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), according to the top honcho of the country’s oldest conglomerate Ayala Corporation.

“Filipino businesses are in an exceptionally strategic position to compete on a regional global scale: stronger balance sheets, enhanced expertise and progressive thinking. Businesses are increasingly diversified,” Ayala Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Fernando Zobel de Ayala said during his keynote address at a business forum in Manila on Thursday.

Ayala said the Philippines can take advantage of the strong and resilient Asean market by first maintaining a “strong sustainable business environment” that can serve as a solid foundation of every local company.

“(There should be) continuity in the governance structure, fiscal reforms that spur growth, and it also requires maintaining our traditional areas of strength, particularly IT-BPO (information technology – business process outsourcing) and other sectors, while enabling other growth opportunities for MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), revival of manufacturing industry and other priority areas,” he said.

Before entering the Asean market, Ayala said Philippine businesses need to develop in-depth market knowledge across borders and strategic relationships with Asean counterparts.

He noted that there are disparities in social and cultural structures and companies should find a suitable local partner, which is essential in navigating local culture.

He stressed that the main advantage of Philippine firms is their workforce.

“To be successful internationally, we need to harness the global Filipino workforce and one of the strongest advantages that we have — language proficiency, talent and productivity,” he said.

“Filipinos are the best in terms of global adaptability, resilient, respectful of other cultures and highly adaptable,” he added.

He cited major Philippine firms that have made it to the international arena including snack food and beverage firm Universal Robina Corp., infrastructure and food conglomerate San Miguel Corp., The Carlos Chan Group, Unilab, and flag carrier Philippine Airlines.

He said he remains positive that more local firms will follow in the footsteps of the pioneers, which would be beneficial not only for these companies but also for the livelihood of Filipino workers under their payroll.

According to JP Morgan, Asean is fast becoming a major economic force in Asia and is a global driver of growth with its population of over 600 million and nominal GDP of $2.31 trillion.

Asean was tagged as “an emerging hotspot” or “future powerhouse” as investors and firms flock to the region for expansion and business opportunities due to its continuous effort to integrate its member-economies.

Ayala Corp. itself has been vocal in its expansion prospects in Asean especially in Indonesia, mostly looking for business and investment opportunities in power, water, and the real estate estate.


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