MBC-US Embassy Dialogue: COVID-19 Outreach and Outlook

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14 May 2020 – MBC, in partnership with the US Embassy and Philippines-US Business Council, hosted a digital forum with US Ambassador Sung Kim to discuss COVID-19 outreach activities and economic outlooks.

Ambassador Kim said that ties remain strong even as governments tackle COVID-19, which is important due to continuing security issues such as the South China Sea. “Despite the situation, our bilateral relationship is still very strong. The US has given more aid to the Philippines than any other Southeast Asian country,” he said.

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said long-term planning is suspended in favor of weeks and months. He is preserving cash and trying to gather data on how consumers have been affected and may behave as the crisis continues or passes. Miguel Garcia (DTSI Group), who builds and leases BPO space, said he is exploring “resi-mercial” projects for employees to live near workplaces. Enrique Valles (Mida Food) said packaging and merchandising have become unimportant as buying shifts online.

Victor Paterno (7-Eleven), who is allowed to operate but can only open half his stores, said testing and data analysis need to be ramped up and asked Ambassador Kim for U.S. assistance. He is building a contact tracing app to accelerate the reopening of stores and jobs. Ramon Del Rosario (Phinma Group) shared that his organization’s online learning programs are limited as 60% of their students do not have reliable internet access. 

Zobel discussed what his group has done for employees and is now doing in the health sector, and how business leaders put up P1.7-B to feed families in Metro Manila. Valles of Mida Food donates imported inventory that Entrepreneurs Organization turns into meals delivered to hospital frontliners. Miguel Garcia of DTSI is supporting a group of home kitchens doing the same. 

“There is a shared responsibility to address the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, with a focus on vulnerable communities,” said MBC Trustee Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.