Message at the 40th National Conference of Employers
Theme: “Future-proofing Business and Industry”
Grand Ballroom A, Marriott Hotel Manila, Pasay City

Usec. Jacinto Paras of the Department of Labor and Employment; Mr. Edgardo Lacson, Chairman of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP); Mr. Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., President; Atty. Ancheta Tan, President Emeritus; Mr. George Barcelon, Vice President; Atty. Ranulfo Payos, Vice President; Mr. Federico Marquez Jr., Chairperson of the Organizing Committee; Mr. Alfonso Siy, Governor; Ms. Alegria Limjoco, President of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry; ECOP governors; ECOP affiliates; members of the industry; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen: Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat! [applause]

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak before you today. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines is key in transforming the lives of millions of Filipinos. And this annual event is a great opportunity not just to make sense of today’s business environment, but also to remind us all of what matters most: prosperity that is shared, and wealth that empowers anyone willing to work hard for it. In this divided and polarized times, when societies are increasingly burdened with the negative effects of soulless capitalism, it is clear that inclusive growth is for everyone’s benefit. 

The elusiveness of inclusivity is a puzzle that we all must solve, as we try to anticipate what the future holds for businesses, organizations, governments, and for every human family. As it is, much has already been said about the anticipated impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

According to The Future of Jobs Report 2016[1], 65% of those currently in schools all over the world will end up in careers that do not exist yet. In the Philippines, new technologies will affect about 4.5 million jobs, particularly in agriculture, wholesale or retail, and manufacturing.[2]   

These numbers are threatening and alarming, but CEOs and entrepreneurs in other countries are responding by leveraging technology to strengthen businesses and make a better way of life for individuals. 

For example, Singapore’s innovation ecosystem—made up of high-quality infrastructure, a growing pool of dynamic start-ups, well-trained talent, and strong government support—is now a key attraction for global businesses.[3]

In India, 12 apps serve as platforms for residents to discuss inefficient government services, report road issues or potholes, and provide feedback on existing policies and procedures. 

A similar, more advanced system in Bandung, Indonesia helped create a high-tech “command-center” that track floods, traffic jams, and more by monitoring social media posts, traffic cameras, and road-user complaints. Indonesians can even push a “panic button” on their phones if they are in danger and local authorities will be alerted within seconds.

Did you know that 86% of Philippine business leaders believe that they need to transform their companies into digital businesses to enable future growth, and that new data insights can lead to new revenue streams for their companies?[4]  The problem is that the barriers to digital transformation are huge, especially in our country: lack of strategy, lack of equipped workforce and ICT infrastructure, as well as security concerns.[5]  

These challenges are compounded by other immediate concerns such as poverty, hunger, malnutrition, inadequate healthcare, illiteracy, and unemployment. This is the sad reality we face, not only in the Philippines, but also in many developing countries in the region. 

Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves: How do we improve skill sets and embed new technology in our services and processes? How do we attract young, vibrant, and tech-savvy millennials to join and invigorate our nation’s workforce? How can we equip the ordinary Filipino with the necessary knowledge to survive this new digital age? How do we ensure that no one is left behind?

I have said this before, and I will say this again: Economic empowerment leads to freedom. Freedom leads to the ability to make better choices. Better choices lead to better lives. This is why the need to share progress among our people is paramount in our nation’s journey.

But how do we ensure that fairness and productivity co-exist in the workplace? How can we use technology to provide those in the fringes with better livelihood opportunities? How can those living in far-flung areas have equal access to advanced knowledge, the latest technology, and economic opportunities?

Ladies and gentlemen, the answer lies both in improving our competitive advantage and in turning our focus on constant collaboration. We need to come together and disrupt systems. We need to adopt fresh, new business models. We must build consensus among organizations and push for a development agenda.   

That is why I believe today’s gathering comes at a very opportune time. We, at the Office of the Vice President, believe that it is through effective partnerships and community engagement that we can come up with the best solution to any problem.  

This is the spirit behind our anti-poverty program called Angat Buhay. We, at the OVP, believe that so much can be accomplished if we work together with open hearts and willing hands. This is not the time for hate and divisiveness. This is the time for unity and cooperation. 

Through Angat Buhay, we hope to explore largely untapped wellsprings of Filipino skill and talent by creating jobs and livelihood opportunities, especially for the poor. We hope to increase productivity in the labor sector, and raise the level of technical efficiency through education and innovation. And we are very lucky that the private sector has been very responsive in the work that we do. 

Allow me to share with you some of the things that we have begun rolling out. Since 2017, we have partnered with Astoria Culinary and Hospitality Institute (ACHI) in granting 100% scholarship to underprivileged students in a 208-hour internship program with Astoria Hotels.

Students from Rizal, Marikina, and Bohol were given the opportunity to spend their on-the-job training under Astoria’s hospitality management program for free. Students who were lucky enough to get a slot learned how to make beds like pros, cook in the kitchen, operate the front desk—essentially all the skills they will need to get hired immediately. Scholars under the internship program undergo intensive training and assessment, and if they perform well, Astoria hires them after graduation.

In Veruela in Agusan del Sur and Sumisip in Basilan, poverty was also a daily struggle. In Sumisip, this was compounded by severe problems with insurgency and terrorism. While some of them try to find employment in nearby cities, many would join the Abu Sayyaf, which provide shelter, food, and arms for protection. For those who are victims of rido, or clan wars, guns and ammunitions are a compelling motive. To address the growing problem, we reached out to their local government officials and linked them with Dualtech, which already had an existing facility for out-of-school youth.

Under Dualtech’s Dual Training System (DTS) program, students are immersed in real-life work experience in various industries, such as manufacturing and servicing. One of the highlights of this partnership is the two-year Electromechanics Technology program, where students spend six months learning industrial skills in Calamba, Laguna, and then 18 months in-plant training in one of Dualtech’s partner companies.

Joshua Libanon was one of those who went through the program. He hails from Veruela, Agusan del Sur. Joshua’s parents are farmers, and every day, they struggle to earn a living. Oftentimes, there isn’t enough money to feed him and his siblings, so Joshua goes to sleep at night often with an empty stomach. He quit high school because his parents could not afford to support his expenses. Wanting to escape this situation, he contemplated joining the New People’s Army. 

Luckily enough, this was also around the time that he heard that the LGU was opening up scholarships for a technical vocational course in Calamba, Laguna. Joshua took the chance and was given a scholarship. He’s very grateful because the program introduced him to the world of electromechanics. Currently, he is undergoing on-the-job training in Sonion—a hearing aid manufacturer based in Batangas. 

Joshua now earns a small allowance, which he saves and sends to his family back in Veruela. He hopes to work in Sonion even after his OJT so that he can earn enough to support the schooling of his younger siblings.

As of today, out of the 201 scholars from Veruela, 83 have already successfully completed the first phase of their training with industry partners like Honda, Auto Delta, and Asia Brewery. Twenty slots have also been allocated for out-of-school youths from Sumisip, Basilan. In fact, nine of the Sumisip youths are already undergoing the two-year Electromechanics Technology training under Dualtech.

These collaborations give us a glimpse of the realities taking place in many far-flung communities across our country. Sadly, despite the huge strides we have taken in key economic sectors, poverty continues to cripple the lives of a quarter of the population. 

I hope we can invite your organization to join us in our advocacies. I hope we can exchange ideas on how to widen our engagements by integrating digital solutions in the workplace, and introducing new technology in far-flung communities. 

Ladies and gentlemen, each one of us holds a key in unlocking a brighter future for our people. Remember that genuine progress is not just about the creation of wealth; it is about the ability of organizations to push for sustainable reforms that will allow wealth and knowledge to trickle down to the poorest of the poor.  

Government cannot do it alone, just as the private sector cannot do it alone. I cannot do it alone. During these extraordinary times, each one is called to carry the torch of leadership and light the path for others. 

Once again, thank you very much and may you have a fruitful conference. Mabuhay po kayong lahat! [applause]


[1] The Future of Jobs Report 2016, http://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016/chapter-1-the-future-of-jobs-and-skills/#view/fn-1

[2] CISCO and Oxford Economics, September 2018, Page 13, Technology and the future of ASEAN jobs, https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/global/en_sg/assets/csr/pdf/technology-and-the-future-of-asean-jobs.pdf

[3] Forbes, 2018, Singapore: A Global Hub for Innovation, https://www.forbes.com/custom/2018/08/13/singapore-a-global-hub-for-innovation/

[4] Microsoft, 2017, https://news.microsoft.com/en-ph/2017/02/27/86-of-business-leaders-in-philippines-believe-they-need-to-be-a-digital-business-to-succeed-microsoft-study/

[5] Ibid