Monday, 27 July 2009

Top CEOs say Philippines resilient

Philippines poised for growth
By Daxim Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines - It may sound like gloom and doom on the street level, but a significant number of the Philippines’ movers and shakers—who presumably have a better perch from which they see the world—remain surprisingly upbeat regarding the country’s economic performance.

Their optimistic insights and confidence in the resiliency of the Philippines, despite what is expected to be a long and deep global economic downturn, was recently featured in a book published by audit and business advisory firm Isla Lipana & Co.

Rising confidence

According to the firm’s officials, the company sought out some of the most prominent names in Philippine business to have them answer one simple question: Are CEOs in the Philippines bullish about their organizations’ growth prospects?

The results were compiled in a single volume called “Philippine Resiliency: A Gem Uncovered,” which contains the insights of some of the country’s largest and most important companies’ CEOs.

Among them are Jaime Zobel de Ayala of Ayala Corp., Aurelio Montinola III of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, Ed Chua of the Shell companies in the Philippines, Erramon Aboitiz of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Tony Tan Caktiong of Jollibee Foods Corp., Lance Gokongwei of JG Summit Holdings, Pedro Roxas of Roxas Holdings and Rex Drilon II of Ortigas & Co. Ltd.

One such gem came from BPI president Montinola who pointed out that the local economy is now reaping the reward of having learned valuable lessons during the 1997 East Asian financial crisis.

Important lessons

“We learned that the most important lesson was not to be overleveraged,” he said. “You should invest in products that you understand, [so] our basic message is [always to] save so that you can take care of yourselves.”

Another important insight came from PLDT chair Manuel V. Pangilinan who stressed the importance of maintaining liquidity during difficult times.

“The first thing we worried about is to ensure that we have what we call a liquidity moat that would protect the group from adverse pressure that could be created by the lack of bank credits,” he said.

With this aspect secured, a firm can go about its business of helping economic growth along because this, in turn, helps uplift the lives of the country’s poor.

Also interviewed for the book was Philippine Daily Inquirer president Sandy Prieto-Romualdez who explained how passion drives the country’s most read newspaper to excellence.

Positive attributes

Views of the heads of top organizations were gathered as well, such as those of Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo of the International Social Security Association (herself an alumnus of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the international partner of Isla Lipana), Ramon del Rosario Jr. of the Makati Business Club, and Oscar Sañez of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines.

Speaking about the positive attributes of Filipinos, Ayala Corp. president and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala II said: “I find it an extraordinary gift that our nation has men and women who really participate on many fronts as equals, and that has yet to happen in many other countries.”

This was echoed by Del Rosario, who also chairs diversified conglomerate Phinma, who said that the “most important resource as a country is our people.”

During the launch of the book, Isla Lipana chair and senior partner Judith Lopez expressed her appreciation of the interviewees.

“Clearly, this worthwhile project comes at a time when the nation needs it most, when confidence levels may be stagnating or even declining, when the global effects of the economic crunch are rising,” she said.

She said the book would be distributed to Isla Lipana’s local and foreign partners as part of its corporate social responsibility campaign aimed at helping improve the perception about the Philippines.

“It is true that we, as a people, are very resilient, like the bamboo,” she added. “This is why the country has so far been riding the storm of the global financial crisis. And this is why it must be shared with others, to ignite the flames of hope and boost their confidence.”

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