US-ABC Organizes Workshop in Philippines Following ASEAN Economy 2.0 Launch Focused on Addressing Digital Skill Gap for SMEs

(Manila, Philippines) – On July 29, 2022, the US-ASEAN Business Council (the Council), in partnership with the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Philippines Trade Training Center, conducted a workshop for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Philippines. The event was part of the Council’s broader workshop series to support the Philippine economic recovery. More than 500 Filipino SMEs participated in the workshop session themed, “Addressing Digital Skill Gaps for Philippine SMEs.”

The workshop was officially opened by Ms. Blesila A. Lantayona, Undersecretary of Regional Operations Group (ROG) of the Department of Trade and Industry who delivered welcome remarks highlighting the importance of MSMEs in the Philippine Economy and how digitalization brought new opportunities for MSMEs.

“The micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector is vital to our goal for national development. The sector drives the creation and distribution of services or goods and the generation of employment for the majority of us. However, in the past two years, we have witnessed how the health crisis disrupted business operations, displaced our labor force, and paralyzed our economy. Nevertheless, the situation only made us realize that through adoption, having a creative and innovative mind in business through digitalization has made MSMEs flexible in addressing problems and to think outside the box,” said Undersecretary Lantayona.

The Undersecretary’s welcome remarks were followed by remarks from Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director of the Council.

Digital solutions have mitigated the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly in the Philippines where the digital sector is estimated to be worth USD 75 billion and is expected to grow by 30 percent annually to reach USD 28 billion by 2025,” said Ambassador Michael Michalak. “However, small businesses in the Philippines still face several challenges to achieving digital transformation. Today’s workshop will focus specifically on the role of digital transformation for SMEs in the Philippines economic recovery, particularly as it relates to SMEs acquiring necessary digital skills,” he added.

Finally, Mr. Joey Concepcion, Chairman of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines, provided remarks emphasizing the importance of digitalization for SMEs to bolster Philippines economic recovery.

In the first session of the program, Ms. Mary Jean T. Pacheco, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Secretary for Digital Philippines of the Department of Trade and Industry, Ms. Maria Lourdes P. Aquilizan, Director III for the ICT Literacy and Competency Development Bureau of the Department of  Information and Communications Technology, and Mr. Stephen Thomas Misa, Country Head, President, and Chairman for AWS Philippines discussed the benefits of digital solutions and skills for the SMEs in developing their business. Mr. Misa emphasized AWS’ collaboration with DTI and DICT to extend no-cost upskilling support to many Filipinos.

“Cloud has helped democratize technology by providing access to SMEs across ASEAN,” said Mr. Misa. “By deploying applications on AWS, SMEs are able to achieve cost savings and operational efficiencies, while shifting resources to high-impact, value-added tasks to better deliver products and services to their customers. In the Philippines, AWS works with companies like Ventaja, Beauty Bar, Pinoy Travel, and PearlPay to support their cloud journey, optimize cost, and innovate faster to respond to business and customer demands,” Mr. Misa added.

The next session began with a training from Mr. Paul Sears, Senior Solutions Architect of AWS who shared business and technology trends that accelerated the business transformation, ecommerce adoption, and digital modernization strategies of SMEs. SMEs can benefit from free digital skills training courses from AWS on the SME Academy Learning Management System (LMS) accessible on the ASEAN SME Academy website.

During the third session, SMEs participated in three interactive breakout rooms which focused on exploring the value of digital skills for Philippines SMEs as well as inputs and solutions to achieve such skills. The breakout room sessions featured Mr. Edwin Moran from Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Edwin Pasahol from Philippines Department of Trade and Industry, and Ms. Nugraheni Utami from US-ASEAN Business Council as facilitators.

Finally, Ms. Nelly Nita Dillera, Executive Director of the Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC) providing closing remarks, and also invited Ms. Jhenna Cueto, owner of the RC Arts x Crafts to share her testimonial of the Academy, highlighting the help from the Academy in acquiring digital skills.

The ongoing capacity-building initiatives in the ASEAN Member States (AMS) have been a key pillar of the Council since 2011 in response to a request by ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) to support ASEAN small businesses in leveraging technology and the intra-global consumer and supply base. In 2016 the Council launched the online ASEAN SME Academy (the Academy), a free online learning platform for SMEs, that provides courses and resources from the Council’s member companies and co-administered with the Philippines Department Trade and Industry (DTI) and Philippine Trade Training Centre (PTTC) on behalf of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME). In 2022 the Academy launched its upgraded version with new key features such as multilanguage support, new visual design, and community page, to more quality contents. To read more about the Academy or should you want to know more about how to develop your SME, please visit  www.asean-sme-academy.org for more information.


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Since 1984, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for U.S. corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's membership of nearly 170 companies generates almost US$7 trillion in revenue and employs more than 14.5 million people.  Today our members include the largest U.S. companies conducting business in ASEAN and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for more than 100 years. The Council has nine offices around the globe, in Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; Singapore; and Yangon, Myanmar.