Bringing ASEAN Mentorship to South Korea

PHOTO CAPTION: President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the MOU signing between ASEAN Business Advisory Council and Korean Federation of Small and Medium Business and ASEAN-Korea Center. In photo: PA Joey Concepcion, President Rodrigo Duterte, Chairman Park Sung-taek, and George Barcelon.

Even with the Philippines’ ASEAN chairmanship over, our efforts to bring mentorship beyond the member-states continues. As founding chair of the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) and co-chair of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, I am optimistic we can instill the importance of mentorship not just in the business aspect, but also in all facets of life.

As you all know, we previously launched AMEN in Sydney, Australia. It was our first attempt to bring this legacy project to other parts of the world and we were successful in introducing it to our ASEAN dialogue partners in Australia. Just recently, we launched the mentorship program in Seoul, South Korea last June 5. It was part of President Duterte’s three-day official visit to the country.

AMEN focuses on bringing the ASEAN BAC as well as AMEN partner organizations and institutions together in presenting a pool of mentors in the business sector. The group of mentors focuses on business, investment opportunities, issues, and directions in the ASEAN.

With the support of the entire ASEAN BAC, we organized this network with the aim of AMEN becoming a platform for conversations among regional and global stakeholders in the ASEAN Economic Community. These stakeholders are composed of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals who are considered as thought leaders on topics such as the digital economy, agripreneurship and trade and industry, as well as priority sectors on women and youth. By building this ecosystem, these regional mentors would be able to facilitate the scaling up of our micro and small entrepreneurs through the power of the 3Ms for MSME development: mentorship, money, and market.

I vividly remember President Duterte giving his speech during the first official launch of AMEN in our country last year.  The President emphasized the importance of MSMEs which, according to him, is accountable for about 80 percent of all the businesses in the world.

Last week, top business leaders from both South Korea and the Philippines gathered for the forum and luncheon where several business deals and signings of memorandum of understanding were conducted. Trade Sec. Mon Lopez recently reported that both countries signed a total of 23 agreements worth 4.858 billion US dollars. Part of this billion-dollar deal was our agreement with South Korea in launching AMEN.

I really admire President Duterte in building diplomatic ties with our neighboring countries as well as those outside our region. Even Korean Federation of SMEs Chair Park Sung-Taek gave nothing but positive remarks on our current administration. He mentioned that the Philippine economy has gradually and rapidly grown since President Duterte was inaugurated as our leader.

According to him, the Philippines is a reborn country with no corruption under his presidency. And because of this, many international business leaders and companies recognize our country as an attractive market especially Korean business leaders who participated in the forum. These businesses now expressed their intent to enter the Philippine market and Chair Park said that several of those companies are already part of the country’s economy.

With this administration’s Build, Build, Build program, we can already envision a golden age of infrastructure for the next few years. And through this signing, the Philippines and South Korea can be of mutual benefit in creating new jobs and businesses in realizing the government’s vision of inclusive development.

By bringing AMEN as well as other initiatives to our dialogue partner, we are strengthening our ties with South Korea in terms of trade and industry. This would improve our country’s economy as South Korea promised to provide construction equipment materials as well as vehicles to enter and be exchanged with products from the Philippine market.

The network that we are building will extremely help our aspiring and existing local business owners most especially our MSMEs in the Philippines to get their products out there in the international market. I am certain that our locally made products can compete with what the ASEAN member states and partner institutions are offering. With our programs in Go Negosyo and through the support of the public and private sector, we are enabling them with the knowledge in managing their business and marketing their products.

The vision for AMEN to be recognized in every part of the world is still in the works. We are planning to launch this mentorship network in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand in the next few months. We are also in talks with Brunei and Myanmar for potential launches in their respective countries.

I truly hope that this legacy project will be welcomed with the same warmth as our partners in South Korea. The AMEN launch in Seoul is a testament of our stronger diplomatic ties as we celebrate our 70th year of affinity with South Korea next year.