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An alliance for prosperity and food security

What a fruitful meeting that was in Kuala Lumpur. In the space of a few days, we were shown the potential of region-wide agriculture cooperation.

The agri companies we assembled for this visit covered so much ground. They visited a tissue culture lab at KLK Bhd in Selangor, then met with Aerodyne in Cyberjaya to see how AI can aid farming, then to the Sime Darby plantation in Carey Island and Farm Fresh in UPM Sendang. We were wholeheartedly received by Malaysia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and given much support by our Malaysian private sector counterparts, led by ABAC Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Nazir Razak and B2B Connect Initiative chairman and former Malaysia trade minister Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed. Our Ambassador to Malaysia, Ma. Angela Ponce, was there with us every step of the way. With her help, we will be able to follow through on all the amazing groundwork we have done these past few days.

This was the icing on the cake of my visit to KL last week, which was to attend the 100th meeting of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council. ASEAN-BAC focuses on assessing and pinpointing matters that facilitate and advance economic cooperation and integration. Our activities these past few years, and these past few days particularly, showcase the actions we are taking to create a future of prosperity for the ASEAN.

Taking pride of place is the fact that we are starting work on Phase 3 of our ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network, or AMEN, the legacy project of our chairmanship in 2017. AMEN uses mentorship as a tool for building capacity and establishing sustainable value chains, ultimately contributing to prosperity in the ASEAN by boosting trade and market and economic linkages.

We’ve produced nearly 200 AMEN graduates coming from all the ASEAN member-states, all of them MSEs who will now benefit from the mentoring they received from the network of entrepreneurship mentors that we developed over the past few years.

Our target now is to have more than a thousand MSE graduates by 2027. By that time our network of entrepreneurship mentors and coaches would have grown to 600, all spread out across the ASEAN and sharing their expertise and experiences to help grow and scale up the small and medium entrepreneurs of the ten ASEAN member-states.

An exciting prospect is the online learning platform we are putting together as part of AMEN’s Phase 3. Imagine an online learning platform that can multiply exponentially the access of ASEAN MSEs to entrepreneurship mentoring. With hope, we can have this up and running soon.

The 100th ASEAN BAC meeting was also an opportunity to take the first steps to fulfilling the objectives of several MOUs we signed last year to harness the private sector’s resources and expertise in agriculture in a cooperative network throughout the region.

As I mentioned in my column last week, I was accompanied to Malaysia by the leaders of some of the Philippines’ largest agriculture companies. One of these was Ben Mead from Iba Botanicals.

During the visit, Iba Botanicals and the Malaysian startup Synbion signed an MOU on OUDino, a Malaysia-developed biotechnology that accelerates the production of high-quality agarwood. Agarwood is the source of oud, one of the most expensive oils in the world. This is important because you need an inoculant to extract the valuable resin from agarwood. Synbion, a spin-off company of Universiti Malaysia Pahang Al Sultan Abdullah (UMPSA) and a subsidiary of UMP Technology Sdn Bhd, specializes in agarwood inoculant solutions.

Oud can be a potential earner for the Philippines once local growers have this technology. Fortunately, Ben said he plans to offer Synbion’s OUDino to other agarwood planters in the Philippines and help them produce exceptionally high-quality agarwood.

This is but one example of how science-driven innovation and sustainable commercialization can be amplified through cooperation between nations, ultimately benefitting farmers and businesses from both countries.

With hope, our visit to the Malaysian multinational KLK, whose success is rooted in the development of palm oil and rubber, will bear fruit. In the very good technical discussions were the possibility of partnerships in the Philippines, maybe even supplying palm planting materials to the Philippines.

I imagine the other primary commodities we are focusing on – such as rice, coconut, poultry, tropical fruits and rubber, among many others – will find successful partnerships as we go and conduct trade visits to other countries that signed our MOU for agricultural partnership, namely Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei, Laos and Thailand.

The vision now is to create an ASEAN Food Security Alliance through the sharing of knowledge and resources, and establish market cooperation. By harnessing the strengths of the private sector, we are fulfilling our mandate of boosting ASEAN’s efforts towards economic integration and promoting economic cooperation.

ASEAN BAC Philippines is committed to upskilling the MSEs of the region and creating prosperity for all, while futureproofing our region against threats to our food security. Our values as ONE ASEAN should guide our business practices and ensure that our decision-making incorporates perspectives that benefit our region’s society and economy.

The actions we have taken over the past few days exemplify our dedication to creating a more prosperous and sustainable future for the ASEAN region. While there is indeed still a long way to go, I believe that by taking these first steps, we will have a chance at creating greater and lasting impact. We are encouraged by the knowledge that these efforts not only build resilience for our businesses but also for our countries.

Source: Go Negosyo -


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