Philippines 2010

As we now enter the final quarter of the year (which is supposed to be the best quarter for most consumer companies), we are now faced with challenging situations. The aftermath of Ondoy and Pepeng will definitely affect consumer spending, as people have lost their homes and personal wealth. Many small and medium-sized businesses have also been affected, especially those in agri-negosyo. But, Filipinos are known to be resilient in times like these. Again, this is a test of character for those who give up and those who are determined to succeed.

Atty. Felipe Gozon, a Trustee of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, has supported us in Go Negosyo after realizing that he should have been an entrepreneur much earlier. We also brought two of Go Negosyo’s very inspiring entrepreneurs, Merle Alferez and Jennilyn Antonio. Merle struggled with poverty since childhood. She even had to endure the constant beating from his father. This is what pushed her to fight for her dreams in defeating poverty. She never gave up her dream in finishing her studies, even if it means selling at the market and driving a tricycle at a young age to earn money. Today, she owns the very successful MSA Academic Advancement Institute, a review center that has earned a reputation for the standard and quality that they produce. Jennilyn, on the other hand, also has her share of struggles in life. She came to a point when she couldn’t feed her children three times a day. With an initial 500-peso worth of peanuts, she was able to establish her own negosyo. Now, she has her own Ehje’s Peanut Butter, which is sold in all SM Supermarkets nationwide. Her peanut butter is also used in leading bakeshops in the country like Julie’s Bakeshop and French Baker.

Many would question, “What have I done to deserve this?”. It is a question raised by many entrepreneurs, especially those from the micro and small levels who face personal and business challenges daily. Those who realize the need to confront the challenges are the ones who succeed and grow as better persons.

As I have been exposed to a lot of challenging stories of different people for the last four years through Go Negosyo, my own personal challenges will never match up to what they have gone through. Many of them ask the same question. We hope that in our small way, we can encourage more of them not to give up.

What are the good things in store for the Philippines? Let us all look at the bright side. If we keep looking at the dark and gloomy side of things, we will never get anywhere. The government is going to spend billions in the massive reconstruction of roads and infrastructure. The relocation of communities and helping families are on going. This massive amount of spending must be spent properly. This is why PGMA has formed a special reconstruction commission to be headed by PLDT Chairman Manny Pangilinan and to be co-chaired by Archbishop Ricardo Vidal and Finance Secretary Margarito Teves. Insurance firms will also have to pay up big for the damage in properties. A lot of contractors will benefit from this reconstruction of factories, homes, and other properties. You can compare it to the $787 billion economic stimulus package of the US. Our massive reconstruction is going to be good for the country. It will circulate more money to the Filipino people, so consumer spending should improve.

Also, we have the national elections coming in 2010. By November 20, all candidates running must file for candidacy. With Noynoy, Mar, Villar, Gibo, Puno, Erap, and Binay running, we can expect the political spending to start. In fact it has somehow started. Moreover, with the relative weakness in dollars, healthy OFW remittances, and FOREX reserves, we expect a stronger peso. This will ensure that inflation will be under control.

Even if oil is breaching the 80 dollar level, a strong peso will make certain that inflation will be kept under control and interest rates will be all time low. While a strong peso is not good for OFWs and BPOs, the government will definitely have to step in and buy dollars to keep the peso from appreciating to the levels of 42 and 43. We are only in October and the peso is at 46.50 already. The peso is normally strongest in the month of February. We still have four to five months of FOREX remittances that are coming in bigger amounts to help families who have been hit by the typhoons.

The peso will even be stronger if we have a clean and honest election in 2010. A Noynoy-Mar or Villar, or even Gibo, winning the election next year will be good for the country. We can definitely be upgraded by credit-rating agencies, similar to what happened in Indonesia despite all the earthquakes and rebel insurgencies that hit the country. The Philippines has the chance to be at that level in 2010.

We can give relief to the typhoon victims, but at a certain point, people have to stand on their own. Looking at the papers, entrepreneurs are now fast. You see people offering inflatable boats and marine engines for sale. This is considered as an opportunity. Every barangay unit should explore this, especially those prone to floods. In fact, every home should have lifejackets. It’s a little funny if you think about it, but there are opportunities in every situation.

The doubting Thomases out there who keep on saying that we will never make it, that we are corrupt and that they won’t do anything since we are a corrupt country anyway, will miss an investment opportunity in 2010. Bet on the Philippines. God answers the prayers of people who face life’s challenges. Trials are given to us for a purpose. When we realize this, life will start to change for the better.

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Last Thursday, I was asked to award the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Small Business Category. For the past four years, Go Negosyo has been focusing on micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs who need the encouragement, mentoring, and assistance. The very shy Eduarda Ayo of E.V. Ayo Enterprises won the award. Amb. Jesus Tambunting , Chairman and President of Planters Development Bank, also won as the Master Entrepreneur and the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. His simple story in starting with a simple thrift bank in Malolos, Bulacan was truly an inspiration. Plantersbank may not be in to top ten banks, but its effort in helping small and medium entrepreneurs is like an act of the Good Samaritan. They help create wealth, especially when a lot of banks are afraid to assist, as the risk of lending in this category is higher than lending large corporations. Another winner, Justin Uy (President of Profood International Corporation) won in the Manufacturing Entrepreneur category. When I heard his story the first time, it was one of those that inspired me and drove me to start the Go Negosyo advocacy. Congratulations to the other winners of the EOY in their respective categories:; Gemma Bulos, Founding Director of A Single Drop for Safe Water (Social Entrepreneur); Kenneth Cobonpue, CEO of Interior Crafts of the Islands Inc. (Innovation Entrepreneur); Corazon Dayro Ong, Vice Chairman of CDO Foodsphere, Inc. (Woman Entrepreneur); and Antonio Tiu, CEO of Agrinurture, Inc. (Emerging Entrepreneur).

Go Negosyo would also like to congratulate DZMM Radyo Negosyo for winning the Catholic Mass Media Best Radio Business News or Feature. Congratulations also to Radyo Negosyo Anchor Carl Balita and DZMM VP for Manila Radio Division Peter Musngi for the award. DZMM Radyo Negosyo was also recognized in our previous Youth Entrepreneurship Summit last September 11.

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Congratulations to my sister Vina, who I never thought could lead her batch to celebrate the Silver Jubilarians. They gave an excellent show in their Assumption Velada. My wife went through this five years ago. This year, together with my sister, they celebrated their pearl. They danced perfectly to the Michael Jackson music. Filipinos give priority to family gatherings and reunions, such as alumni homecomings. These traditions have kept most families closely knit.