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    Message of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines At SEIPI’s Q4 General Membership Meeting and CEOs Forum

    Message of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines At SEIPI’s Q4 General Membership Meeting  and CEOs Forum

     

    Good morning, everyone. Thank you for inviting me to join your general membership meeting and CEOs forum today. It is an honor to be in the midst of the best business minds in the country’s semiconductor and electronics industry as we try to find a way to emerge stronger from the challenges brought by the pandemic.

    We are seeing how these difficult times cut across all industries and economies. Businesses everywhere—even the most established ones—are struggling to stay afloat. Earlier reports have shown that 94 percent of Fortune 1000 companies are seeing supply chain disruptions because of the pandemic, while 75 percent of companies have already felt the blunt force of this crisis as early as March. The choice for some has been to either let go of employees or to fold up, resulting in one of the highest unemployment rates on record.

    Suddenly and unexpectedly, the stability and the predictability of outcomes that allow businesses to flourish have dissolved, replaced with anxiety and uncertainty. Questions arise: How do we navigate our way out of this enormous challenge? How do we build back better? And just as your chosen theme asks: How do we move the industry and the economy towards a more resilient post-COVID era? These questions form the spirit of this virtual gathering. And from where I sit, one truth is becoming more evident by the day: If we want to emerge stronger from this crisis, innovation and collaboration in the service of the most affected presents the best way forward.

    Innovation has always been at the heart of how we, as a people, achieve progress. It has helped us change and shape reality as we know it, creating opportunities where none previously existed. In the face of challenges and threats, it transforms into a tool for survival. You at the semiconductor and electronics industry find yourselves in a unique position to harness this extraordinary power of technology and channel it to build a better normal for all—from data processing and telecommunications, to automotive and consumer electronics, as well as medical and industrial instrumentations. As one of the biggest drivers of the national economy and the largest contributor to the country’s manufacturing sector, you have the necessary resources, the manpower, and the networks to make things happen and turn things around.

    As the pandemic has made us starkly aware, turning things around entails more than just returning to the old ways, hoping to weather storms on our own, operating within our own bubbles of self-preservation. Turning things around entails beginning to understand that, ultimately, for the economic ecosystem to truly flourish, the most vulnerable among us must be empowered. They are, after all, the same people who man our workstations, the same people who stand to be end-consumers as we travel further down the process chain of our products. And theirs is the spirit that animates a technological environment that thrives on innovation—on the power of the human mind to find solutions and make things better for everyone else.

    It might seem, from the comfort of our workspaces, that the world already moves in broadband speed. But so many of our people still struggle to connect to the web, much less participate in virtual forums such as this or attend classes online.  This is among the gaps that we must all seek to fill, and at the Office of the Vice President, we have seen first-hand how technology and collaboration between the public and private sectors can serve as instruments to create meaningful change in the lives of our people.

     

    I know that SEIPI as an organization believes in the value of building and harnessing these partnerships. Early this month, when Super Typhoon Rolly hit the Bicol Region, you reached out to the OVP and asked how you can contribute to our relief and rehabilitation efforts. And now, because of your generosity, we will be able to bring more aid to more of our kababayans and help them rebuild faster and rise from the devastation left by the super typhoon. So maraming salamat sa ON Semiconductor Philippines; Transcend Technologies, Inc.; Testech Incorporated; EMS Group/FIF Foundation; Ibiden Philippines; Toshiba Information Equipment Philippines, Inc.; SEMI South East Asia; Castech Industrial Sales, Inc.; Trident Electronics Corporation [and of course, to the SEIPI staff for organizing your own fund drive.] Aside from this, two of your annual business partners—PLDT and Globe—have also been reliable partners for us at the OVP since we rolled out various COVID-19 response initiatives. PLDT Enterprises provided free WiFi for our Community Learning Hub in Pasig. It is one of the alternative learning spaces that we are setting up all over the country where students can use gadgets and access the internet to do their schoolwork, and get additional teaching support from our volunteer tutors. Globe also provided free WiFi for our dormitories for frontliners here in Metro Manila. They also helped us set up our Community Marts in Pasig and Muntinlupa, providing internet connectivity to our headquarters to ensure smooth transactions with customers.

     

    There are more examples: Last March, with the help of our Angat Buhay partner, the Kaya Natin Movement, we launched an online donation drive that would fund urgent needs of our frontliners: PPEs, medical supplies, and food and care packages. We also got to tap local dressmakers to produce more affordable PPE sets. And as we addressed one gap, we discovered others, and moved to fill them. We also teamed up with academics and creatives, who gave their time and skills pro bono, to produce learning videos which help both students and parents adjust to blended learning. To reach out to those who recently lost their jobs because of the pandemic, we worked with the private sector to expand the reach of sikap.ph, an online jobs-matching platform for blue collar workers. We also launched iskaparate.com to help small business owners gain an online presence. Our recent initiative is a partnership with USAID and Philippine Business for Education to provide skills for out-of-school youth through training programs.  This spirit of leveraging the know-how of our networks to address the needs of communities has driven our efforts even before COVID-19. The same impetus—of working together to find new solutions—becomes even more necessary with the current crisis as our background.

     

    Our work is far from over. Today, we are all called to intensify our efforts. More of us need to do the work, so that we can find even more ways to move towards a better normal; and this is the best place to start—the best business minds in the industry are already here with us today. As members of one of the most important industries in the country, employing over three million workers, you have a critical role in making that better normal a reality.

     

    Many of you are already hard at work fulfilling this role. For one, I know how many businesses—you included—are sacrificing your bottom line so you can keep our staff employed. As you work to regain your momentum, let us also ensure that we minimize the health risk for our workers. Physical distancing and minimum safety practices must become entrenched in the culture of our workspaces. Some of you may already be implementing work-from-home arrangements in your companies. But it might be more strategic and even more beneficial if we look at the long term already, reorienting all our systems and technologies to conform with the demands of today, bearing in mind that we might never go back to exactly where we used to be.

     

    The imperative is clear: Embrace technology in a way that manifests a world where no one is left behind. Harness it to build a better, fairer and more equitable world. And as you discuss each other’s views on how the industry can adapt to the challenges of this pandemic, I have no doubt that you will find more opportunities to collaborate and innovate. In doing so, it is my hope that you will be fueled by the same grit and determination that has strengthened you and your businesses after all these years. Use this to reimagine a future that works for all; to empower the communities where you belong, to support other sectors in your midst, to do good and honest business, and ultimately, to contribute to the bigger project of nation-building.

     

    May you have a productive and meaningful gathering. Maraming salamat, mabuhay kayong lahat!

    Posted in Speeches on Nov 13, 2020