Small- and medium-size businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs will have their own champion in the new Duterte-led administration. And these areas of commerce are likely to flourish in an economy that traditionally has been dominated by large national corporations in a culture that protects business oligopolies.
Incoming secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Ramon Lopez, has impressive credentials in promoting small business. For the past 11 years, in his capacity as executive director of Go Negosyo (GN), the advocacy arm of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, he has been doing just that. A major driving force in stimulating and advancing the potential of local enterprise since the inception of GN in 2005, Lopez has helped to build ‘small’ into something bigger and there’s every chance he will continuing that push with the DTI.
Over the past decade, the organisation has brokered partnerships with numerous business corporations, NGOs, microfinance institutions, local government units, and academic institutions across the Philippines. With Lopez at its helm, it has lifted the spirit of young, free-enterprise in a country that had largely ignored it – much less fostered its development. Providing instruction on business concepts and models, micro-financing, innovation and so on, through its programme of ‘Caravans and Summits’ GN has inspired an attitudinal change which it believes, if galvanised, could produce a formidable force for Philippine commerce and alleviate unemployment, particularly among the young – 15 to 24 year olds, 1.4 million of them, presently account for nearly half of the country’s jobless.
The International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) 2015 Philippine Employment Trends report, highlighted youth unemployment in the Philippines at 16.1% and described it as a “youth phenomenon”. In a statement, responding to the ILO’s assessment, Department of Labour and Employment secretary, Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, agreed that youth was the Philippines’ main unemployment challenge.
There is no question that GN has encouraged young Fillpinos in a country where job creation by successive governments has been a low priority, to put it mildly. In 2009, 15,000 youth-group members from across the Philippines packed into the SMX Complex at the SM Mall of Asia in Manila to attend GN’s Youth Entrepreneurship Summit; the following year saw a 22,000-strong attendance at the organisation’s Women Entrepreneurship Summit and Expo held at the World Trade Centre in Pasay City, Metro Manila.
But Lopez is no stranger to big business either. Vice president and executive, assistant to the president, CEO and concurrent head of corporate planning at publically listed RSF Corporation, one of the country’s largest food and beverages companies, he has a packed portfolio of experience in strategic planning, business development, and mergers and acquisitions.
Nor is he a stranger to national government, having worked with both the National Economic and Development Authority and the DTI where he was involved in trade and industry.