Duterte calls on ASEAN to help small businesses, empower women

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and to empower women to take more active roles in their economies.

Duterte joined Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, other government officials, and ambassadors at the launch of the ASEAN 2017 Business and Investment Program at the Malacañang Palace. The Philippines, as chairman of the regional bloc this year, is hosting ASEAN 2017 events.

Duterte said encouraging the growth of businesses all over ASEAN is necessary for creating prosperity in the region. Southeast Asian entrepreneurs should take advantage of the burgeoning economies in ASEAN.

"Our ASEAN today presents many real opportunities for investments to grow, for investors within and outside our region. ASEAN needs to sustain its momentum towards inclusive growth, ensure businesses and industries continue to thrive, and secure a policy that supports meaningful economic change and reform," said Duterte.  

As ASEAN 2017 host, the Philippines will focus on helping MSMEs "that form the backbone of the ASEAN’s collective economy," said the President.

"I encourage business leaders to tap the MSMEs and help them integrate into the national, regional value chain," said Duterte.

MSMEs are the major source of employment in ASEAN, according to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Duterte also highlighted efforts to empower women more so they take more active roles in ASEAN economies.

"The objective is to achieve the full economic potentials of women and to bridge the gender gap. Figures from study show that advancing gender equality will result in US$900 billion additional output to east and west Asian economies in 2025. In ASEAN, we will go beyond that and focus on achieving the equity and justice that all our women deserve," he said.

The Philippines will be hosting 9 fora geared toward helping ASEAN entrepreneurs, start-ups, and investors.

Duterte encouraged entrepreneurs, businessmen, and investors to attend these events.

The schedule of events is as follows: 

Aside from assisting MSMEs, Duterte said the Philippine chairmanship will focus on reducing cost of doing business in the region, improving and harmonizing safety standards for products and services, and helping develop innovation-driven economies.

ASEAN is now the 3rd largest market in the world with over 620 million people. It is the 7th largest economy with a combined GDP worth US$2.3 trillion. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.