A Nation to be Great

As our Independence Day is approaching this June, Noynoy would also soon be officially proclaimed as the new president.

It was in 1986 when the People Power Revolution brought Tita Cory to presidency, after more than 20 years of dictatorship. The people of the Philippines expected big changes to happen. While our level of confidence returned at unprecedented levels, it was not easy sailing for the Cory government.

My father was part of that as he became DTI Secretary. I remember he stayed through until the end of Tita Cory’s term. After which, he ran for the Senate and lost, but he continued with his service to the country via his advocacies in NAMFREL, The Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP), and ASEAN Business Councils. He is also happily serving as a barangay chairman in our village.

I also remember some government officials asking me to pull out of our team in the PBA, which was making our company too high profile. Time flies. I was just in my early 30s at that time, and I told them that RFM has its obligations to the shareholders to grow and expand. The PBA team was part of our marketing effort. We were building the new brands, like Selecta and Cosmos, which we acquired at that time basically from two different families. The rest is history as we saw the phenomenal growth of the brand and its values, especially in the 90’s and into this decade. Cosmos inched its way up close to market leadership until it was bought from us in 2001. Selecta, under a 50-50 joint venture partnership since 1999 with global giant Unilever, has now reached solid market leadership at 59% share.

Since Tita Cory, we have had President Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo. Now, we have a new president. The win of Noynoy is a win for the heritage of Ninoy and Cory Aquino.  Noynoy and his sisters represent that heritage of moral reformation. Since 1986, after 24 years, many companies have progressed, and many of them are now the biggest in the country.  Anyone who says that our country has not progressed at all is a pessimist. Can we be a greater nation? Of course.

The Aquinos’ return would continue the best of what has been done. The programs and people that did well should be maintained and even enhanced. Good and competent people should be asked to continue. In a way, the search committee formed by Noynoy is a good step. It allows a more objective selection process. But, in the end, being the “CEO”, he would have to make the decision as to who will form his cabinet and who he believes will help him achieve his vision of progress for the country.

The key is the continuation of economic programs. While we may have huge budget deficits, I have a different view towards this area. I am not an economics major, but I have a negosyo sense. Many developed countries have budget deficits. Even if we spend and incur deficits, it should be acceptable as long as we spend it on capital expenditures and investments that will generate medium- to long-term recurring growth. Examples would be infrastructures like farm to market roads, which will improve the logistics for our agricultural products, highways, roads, airports that address the logistics efficiencies and cost, as well as tourism. Education is also one area that is the very key to long-term progress. As we also advocate, in particular, non-formal education and empowering mindset-change. Negosyo seminars are also key to empowering the mass-based and out-of-school youth to help them reach their dreams.

Open the negosyo field and let entrepreneurs continue to expand and grow. The private sector will continue to be the engine of growth. More widespread development benefits can be obtained if we pay closer attention to the micro and small entrepreneurs. Let us help them scale-up to become medium-sized and even bigger, and form eventually a more dynamic middle-class so they can become bigger employers and tax payers. I continue to remain optimistic and bullish despite what is happening in Europe and Korea.

This is the most efficient way. What the government can do is to ensure that the climate of investment is present. This is what the Aquino administration can do. Developing into a great nation will take time. And, being great is not just for the upper class.

While PGMA and Manny Villar may have the numbers to control the Congress and Senate, the Aquino government must forge an alliance with both groups. They must all work together so that the Philippines does not enter a cycle of misery again. We should have a more long-term and progressive thinking if we are to worry about our country’s future. We hope we don’t ride on the telenovelas of those wanting intrigues and inquisitions that bring us nowhere. We will just be shooting ourselves on the foot once again. We should hope that every CEO who takes over the country will always do better. This is how we become great. Great leadership maximizes the importance of synergy.

This is our chance. Our foreign reserves are coming close to and may even surpass our total debt. This means we may be a creditor to others soon. So many good things are coming our way. We are gaining the respect we have been waiting for. These days, when asked “where are you from?”, more Filipinos are quick and happy to answer that they are from the Philippines. You now see a sense of pride, with more and more Filipinos wearing shirts with the Philippine map, colors, or flag.

Team Aquino, this is our chance to be great.

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I was informed that our new Go Negosyo book has achieved the number one spot on the Non-fiction Bestsellers list of National Bookstore. This is our Tagumpay book, which features the stories of micro and small entrepreneurs who have beaten poverty. All our five Go Negosyo books are certified bestsellers. Out of the five, this is the fourth book that has reached the number one spot in the bestselling non-fiction. I am glad that God has given me guidance to pursue this advocacy of inspiring people not to lose hope and to continue to fight and overcome poverty. Our bestselling books show that many people do want to succeed in life.

To all our entrepreneurs who are part of the books, to the authors, editors, the PCE-Go Negosyo team, and to my assistant Bennette who cleans up all my messages and forewords – maraming salamat.

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I would like to greet my wife, Marissa, a very happy birthday today. I wouldn’t even dare to mention her age, as she will get pissed at me. She is a superwife and supermom to our five children. Our youngest is Isabella, who just turned three years old but acts like an adult. She
is a great joy and blessing to our family.