Davos postscript: Meeting 35 world’s CEOs best day for Aquino


SALESMAN IN CHIEF President Aquino is received by Ayala Corp. chair and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and president and COO Fernando Zobel de Ayala to the round table with CEOs from around the world on Jan. 25 that the brothers hosted at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The President favored WEF’s smaller sessions as they afforded him a more personal approach. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

For President Benigno Aquino III, the best meeting during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last week was the CEO meeting hosted by the Zobel de Ayala brothers, Jaime Augusto and Fernando.

About 35 CEOs of global businesses, some of them already operating in the Philippines, like Coke FEMSA, Nestlé, Novartis and Ernst & Young, attended the roundtable moderated by the Zobel de Ayalas.

Some of the CEOs were new and not so familiar with the Philippines. They just listened, according to Guillermo Luz, the private sector cochair of the National Competitiveness Council who helped organize the roundtable.

That was much better for Mr. Aquino, as it gave him the opportunity to meet new decision-makers and speak to them about the Philippines and its increasingly robust economy.

“I think one of the key points is education. It’s important to build long-term competitiveness,” Luz said in an interview with the INQUIRER in Zurich just before the presidential entourage boarded the flight back to Manila on Jan. 26.

“The President also stressed that infrastructure is a great opportunity for the Philippines,” Luz said.

Importance of WEF

“I think we’ll just have to understand the importance of the WEF,” Luz said.

“Our experience here in Davos is, you have such a huge critical mass of CEOs already there so to pull a meeting together is so efficient. Where else in the world can you have 30 or 40 CEOs in one sitting?” he said.

“You have companies from the US, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, China, Japan and Indonesia. We have many countries represented and that’s a great value for us as a country, for business executives and for the government,” said Luz, a former executive director of the Makati Business Club.


Quality audience

President Aquino’s communications secretary, Ricky Carandang, added: “It’s a question of quality of audience. The more intimate sessions happen in smaller settings. The bigger session allows you to reach a broader audience, but the smaller sessions allow greater interaction and create a more solid impression.”

It was Mr. Aquino’s debut appearance in the WEF annual meeting—known simply as Davos, after the popular Swiss ski resort that served as venue of the gathering—and he decided to go ahead with it in the last two minutes, so to speak, despite the bitter European winter because he felt he had a good story to tell global investors about the Philippines.

Last-minute decision

As Malacañang’s decision to participate came quite late, most hotels in Davos were already fully booked and so three chalets were rented and became the official residence of the Palace delegation.

Two Filipino chefs were flown in to serve the delegation in these three unstaffed chalets.

He was one of nearly 50 heads of state who took part in the forum, spoke in a number of breakout sessions, mostly closed-door, off-the-record meetings. The WEF made it that way to encourage the leaders to speak more candidly, particularly about sensitive matters like battling official corruption.

Unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel or International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, Mr. Aquino did not speak before a full session of the forum where he could have driven for greater exposure for the Philippines to the 2,500 participants.

A source said organizers of the annual conference “scrambled” to put together a session at the last minute—after Mr. Aquino had already arrived in Davos—that brought together various leaders and officials from Southeast Asian countries.

“We confirmed our attendance only in December, when ideally confirmation is made around October,” said a Palace official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source said Philippine protocol officers were also unsure whether they would commit the President to a speaking engagement until they got a better idea of who else would be on the panel.

The source said it was his understanding that protocol officials of other participants in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-centric session “Resilience in Diversity” were watching each other’s moves to see whether they would commit their own officials to be part of a panel.

As such, the session that Mr. Aquino joined—along with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and other leaders from the Asean—was not included in the original WEF online and printed programs.

The WEF website was later amended, however, to show a synopsis of the panel discussion along with information about the speakers.

But for the government and private sector delegates who accompanied the President, it was nevertheless a worthwhile trip, as Davos offered a vast platform for the Philippines to promote its economy to the global community.

Attended by business leaders, economists, academics, philanthropists, heads of state and journalists, the WEF was born in January 1971. A group of European business leaders met in Davos under the patronage of the European Commission and European industrial associations, with German-born economist Klaus Schwab, then professor of business policy at the University of Geneva, chairing the gathering.

Schwab has since been recognized as the founder of the forum, which has evolved into the de facto private sector representative of the world.

Over the last 42 years, the forum, which also has its fair share of critics, has aimed to improve the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industrial agendas.

Philippine delegation

The Philippines had 63 delegates, 42 of them from Malacañang. The Palace contingent included seven Cabinet members and the chief of presidential protocol, Celia Feria.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and Carandang made up the presidential group.

The rest of the Philippine delegation consisted of young entrepreneurs and private sector representatives.


Private sector reps

The private sector representatives were the Ayala group’s top honchos, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, and a small group of journalists, including one from the Inquirer.

The WEF charges about 23,000 Swiss francs (about $25,000, roughly P1.1 million) for participation in the annual meeting, but Carandang said the fee was waived for the Malacañang delegation.

Some Cabinet members flew to Switzerland ahead of the President. Mr. Aquino himself stayed only three days there. With a report from Daxim Lucas

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  • spitfire

    Postcript meeting ba ire aba’y wala akong nakikitang estranghero sa larawan a. Ala eh baka sa Ayala, Makati laang kinunan ire. Peke baga.

    • sanjuan683

       Mabuti nga nakunan sina Ayala at kilala mo. Kung iba ang nakunan nagpanggap ng businessmen yun pala ay mga tagahakot ng basurera . Eh di nadenggoy ka pa.

  • Darwin

    Sana naman nag open din siya ng Swiss bank account kasama ng mga bagman na tagaluto ng corn beef para hindi sayang ang biyahe.

    • sanjuan683

       Baka mag open baka ilagay pangalan mo sa Swiss Chocolate. hehehehehe

  • t c

    LOL! prefer small audience or nobody bothers to even see him that is why he brought his own audience.

    • sanjuan683

       hehehe pabayaan muna siya diskarte niya yan. Pag naging presidente ka na dun mo ibirit ang galing mo.

  • DrIvEtHrUe

    Here is the reason why Philippines has a limited foreign investors compare to other Asian countries……

    Republic Act No. 7042     

    Section 3. Definitions. – As used in this Act:a) The term “Philippine national” shall mean a citizen of the Philippines or a domestic partnership or association wholly owned by citizens of the Philippines; or a corporation organized under the laws of the Philippines of which at least sixty percent (60%) of the capital stock outstanding and entitled to vote is owned and held by citizens of the Philippines; or a trustee of funds for pension or other employee retirement or separation benefits, where the trustee is a Philippine national and at least sixty (60%) of the fund will accrue to the benefit of the Philippine nationals: Provided, That where a corporation and its non-Filipino stockholders own stocks in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered enterprise, at least sixty percent (60%) of the capital stocks outstanding and entitled to vote of both corporations must be owned and held by citizens of the Philippines and at least sixty percent (60%) of the members of the Board of Directors of both corporations must be citizens of the Philippines, in order that the corporations shall be considered a Philippine national;b) The term “investment” shall mean equity participation in any enterprise organized or existing under the laws of the Philippines;c) The term “foreign investment” shall mean as equity investment made by a non-Philippine national in the form of foreign exchange and/or other assets actually transferred to the Philippines and duly registered with the Central Bank which shall assess and appraise the value of such assets other than foreign exchange;d) The praise “doing business” shall include soliciting orders, service contracts, opening offices, whether called “liaison” offices or branches; appointing representatives or distributors domiciled in the Philippines or who in any calendar year stay in the country for a period or periods totalling one hundred eighty (180) days or more; participating in the management, supervision or control of any domestic business, firm, entity or corporation in the Philippines; and any other act or acts that imply a continuity of commercial dealings or arrangements, and contemplate to that extent the performance of acts or works, or the exercise of some of the functions normally incident to, and in progressive prosecution of, commercial gain or of the purpose and object of the business organization: Provided, however, That the phrase “doing business: shall not be deemed to include mere investment as a shareholder by a foreign entity in domestic corporations duly registered to do business, and/or the exercise of rights as such investor; nor having a nominee director or officer to represent its interests in such corporation; nor appointing a representative or distributor domiciled in the Philippines which transacts business in its own name and for its own account;e) The term “export enterprise” shall mean an enterprise which produces goods for sale, or renders services to the domestic market entirely or if exporting a portion of its output fails to consistently export at least sixty percent (60%) thereof; andg) The term “Foreign Investments Negative List” or “Negative List” shall mean a list of areas of economic activity whose foreign ownership is limited to a maximum of forty ownership is limited to a maximum of forty percent (40%) of the equity capital of the enterprise engaged therein.

    The President should repeal this LAW.

    • sanjuan683

       Kumandidato ka kaya senator magaling ka pala. Ano pangalan mo iboboto kita.

      • DrIvEtHrUe

        Ikaw nalang kumandidato mukhang mas magaling ka…..ano pangalan mo para maisulat sa balota! :)

    • WeAry_Bat

       Let’s play CEO of an umbrella corporation having diverse companies in automotive, food, finance, pharma…

      What would be factors to consider landing in the Philippines?

      * Competition – there is already local and Chinese competition in just about any product, exacerbated by smuggled goods

      * Cost of manufacture – to import finished goods or manufacture here? 
         – customs tax vs local tax
         – electricity here vs. other asian countries
         – availability of raw materials
         – minimum wage
         – available labor
         – approximate amount of gifts and largesse according to local intelligence
         – comparison of approximate costs in product as compared to importing
         – peace and order
         – location security from floods, earthquakes, strong winds

       * Cost of registering business
         – approximate amount of gifts and largesse according to local intelligence
         – other finance costs like 60-40

      What else…I may have only included what is in my narrow lack of understanding.  But maybe to make it short…Ownership would just be one point among points management would consider?

  • spitfire

    I suggest sa sunod na trip ni PNoy ay sa Siquijor. Maraming foreign investors doon. Certified aliens talaga na lumilipad.

  • spitfire

    Maiba ako, yong mga tuta ni carandang na gumagamit dito ng computer malware o virus na pangsipa natinatawag na  “mass ejection” ay obsolete na yan. Better luck next time.

  • johnnie r

    The Student is “BETTER” than the Teacher. 49M junket(paid for by gov’t coffers) against 1M dinner(paid for by a private person).

  • Eric

    Ang lamiiiiiig…….Tara na yosing yosi na akoooo.

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