EITSC, NordCham to engage gov’t,
business in sustainable dev’t goals
Text and photo by Nate C. Barretto
Whatever happened to the country’s drive towards attaining the sustainable development goals (SDG) set by the United Nations (UN) in 2015?
Is there a real and concrete effort to implement the social, economic, and environmental reforms necessary for government and business to end poverty, reduce inequality, and combat climate change?
How much progress have we made in adopting this UN blueprint for peace and prosperity on three of the Philippines’ major economic sectors – agriculture, maritime, and tourism?
These are the questions of the day which the European Innovation Technology and Science Center’s (EITSC) Advocacy Forum shall attempt to answer on June 20 at the Dusit Thani Manila hotel in Makati City.
At a recent press conference at Makati Shangri-la, Mr. Joona Selin, executive director of the Nordic Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (NordCham) which is EITSC’s partner in staging the event, said key leaders in the government, business, and banking sectors will be leading the discussions.
Among them are Senator Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture; Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia; Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr.; Ms. Doris Magsaysay-Ho, president and CEO of Magsaysay Group of Companies; Dr. Benigno Peczon, president of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP); Ms. Jo Ann Eala, Bank of the Philippines (BPI) head of Sustainable Energy Finance and Specialized Lending; and Mr. George Platzer, manager of Ikano Philippines and IKEA Southeast Asia.
Mr. Selin said the mix of speakers had been carefully studied by NordCham and EITSC so as to appropriately address the event objectives which center on six of the 17 SDGs of the UN – no poverty; zero hunger; good health and wellbeing for people; quality education; decent work and economic growth; and reducing inequalities.
“We want to engage the stakeholders – the public sector and the private sector – in these kinds of discussions and forum. What we the Nordic states (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) can share is our success stories; what has worked. And as in recent years when sustainability has been at the forefront, we put in perspective the public sector on setting the policy direction; and the private sector going out and taking that policy direction into action,” he said.
Mr. Henry Schumacher, EITSC (European Innovation, Technology & Science Center) president, said the EITSC, which was formed by European and Philippine development-oriented organizations like the European Union (EU), German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ), and Hanns Seidel Foundation in 2002, has long believed that sustainable development is anchored on striking a balance among the 3 Ps – people, planet, and profit.
“I’ve been in the country (Philippines) for 42 years and, yes, I have seen a growing middle class. But what is most important to address is the inequalities. I see that there are a lot of people still out there — many who are not part of it (economic growth),” Schumacher told THEPHILBIZNEWS. “And we want to come across with the message – with respect to the UN (SDG) goals for 2030 – that industries have to do more.”
As head of the National Economic and Development Academy (NEDA), Secretary Pernia will keynote the event which is themed “Achieving Win-Win Approaches in Sustainable Development” and delve on implementing inclusive and sustainable growth in the Philippines.
It is seen that while the discussions will break down specific policies and goals, they shall all converge on three of the country’s strongest economic sectors which are agriculture, maritime, and tourism.
Schumacher told THEPHILBIZNEWS: “We selected three areas (agriculture, maritime, and tourism) that when you look at inclusive growth and bridging the gap between people who have money and people who don’t have money, then we need employment; development of supply chains in agriculture; the potential of the Blue Economy in the maritime industry; (and) enhancing tourism as the country’s next growth engine.”
The Blue Economy he mentioned refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth; and, with reference to livelihood and jobs, it encompasses ocean activities from renewable energy to fisheries; from maritime transport to waste management; and from tourism to climate change.
As such, Selin and Schumacher underscored the discussions to be led by Ms. Magsaysay-Ho and Usec. Bengzon.
In this respect, Schumacher also underscored the value of hearing from Mr. Platzer and the IKEA Group’s take on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth while finding the balance with full and productive employment and decent work for all.
In the agriculture sector, Dr. Peczon will navigate through the topic of creating sustainable agriculture in the Philippines.
Schumacher warned that with the average age of Filipino farmers at 57, there may not be much to be had in the future. He also called out the need for supply chain management and, at the same time, to diminish the middlemen system to entice more people to share in the benefits of farming.
With regard to policy direction, Sen. Villar will show the link between and among both Houses of Congress, the national and local governments, business, and civil society in achieving the win-win approaches in sustainable development. She is a pro-environment and backyard farming advocate, herself, having established farm schools and recycling trash by way of livelihood programs for women.
In another front, Schumacher revealed that the EITSC had long been convinced that the Philippines would emerge as a major player in the field of information and communications technology (ICT). “EITSC is convinced that the sector of innovation, technology, and science in its widest and potentially most disruptive interpretation has become and will continue to be one of the drivers of change in the Philippines,” he said.
Compelling discussions in this area, Selin said, will surely interest the forum’s target participants from national and local industry associations; corporate affairs and business development professionals; think tanks and business associations; C-level executives from multinational firms in the Philippines; and the various government agencies.
“But we will also address issues like access to finance, insurance and technologies, and we’ll certainly not forget the impact digitalization can make in the three sectors and beyond,” said Schumacher, adding that microfinancing will be a topic brought to fore by Ms. Eala of BPI, which is a silver sponsor of the event.
In addition, the whole day affair will include a discussion on the new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sustainability reporting guidelines for publicly-listed companies or PLCs. Business Development Manager JM Reyes said: “It has to be understood that what is today limited to PLCs will eventually become the requirements for all companies – for understandable reasons, taking the mentioned SDGs seriously.”