As the country eases into a new chapter, Philippine Tatler gathers together seven business leaders to discuss how we can sustain our economic growth and more importantly, remain optimistic about the future.

These are interesting times we live in. A few weeks before the 2016 elections, seven business leaders from the technology, manufacturing, finance, real estate, education, and F&B sectors gathered in Makati Shangri-La’s Sage Restaurant for a luncheon hosted by Philippine Tatler. There, they exchanged their thoughts on the current political and economic climate, reflecting on the last six years and sharing ideas on how to keep moving forward. Read on to see what Nina Aguas, David Chua, Rikki Dee, Gigi Montinola, Rick Santos, Myla Villanueva, and Paolo Villar had to say. 

PHILIPPINE TATLER: Please give us a current picture of your sector, both the good and the bad sides. 

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Myla Villanueva: In the last few years, we’ve seen continuous growth in the telecommunications industry. There’s not a lack of willingness to invest from our telecommunications companies, and the technologies that are being invested on are modern and cutting-edge. In BPO, people are looking at us for more value-added services outside of voice—in finance, medicine, and other industries. There’s more support from financial institutions, so there are a number of very successful IPOs in technology. The Philippines is being viewed by a lot of external investors and partners—Facebook, Google, and Accenture—as a high-growth country.

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David Chua: My area of expertise is steel manufacturing, and the past five years have been good. The Aquino administration has inspired confidence, the effects of which can be seen across the board. Though the first three to four years were private sector-led the type of growth, last year we saw more government spending on infrastructure. Our hope is that the next administration will continue on the same path.

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Paolo Villar: The last five years have been very good for both commercial and residential real estate. There’s been a large increase in supply in vertical residential [condominiums], which has created a mild oversupply situation, but that’s something that will probably be corrected in one or two years. On the horizontal residential [houses], growth is steady, but we need to watch what’s happening in the Middle East, as most of our demand comes from OFWs. As for the commercial side, the BPO industry is driving that. Demand for retail spaces is quite steady, especially outside Metro Manila, where there are very few quality malls. 

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Rick Santos: The main driver for the office market has been BPO or IT-enabled services, about 85 to 90 per cent of the take-up. Our BPO sector still lags behind India, which is good, as it is a sign that there’s a lot more headroom for growth. We still see a lot of opportunity in the upper-tier residential side. Our infrastructure poses either an opportunity or a big problem—most developers are realising that people don’t want to commute in and out of the city, so they look for more residential developments that will minimise commute times. We’ve also seen the return of the industrial sector we lost about 10 or 15 years ago. The hotel sector has also seen a resurgence, and there’s a great opportunity in the hotel and leisure sector with tourist arrivals still coming to around 5 million per year. 

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Rikki Dee: The F&B industry has seen double digit growth, which we can attribute to the frequency in dining of the younger crowd, namely singles below 30 who’d rather eat out before going home. They dine out about 8-10 times a week, which was unheard of before. We never thought of going as far as Mindanao for expansion, but we have a store in Cotabato and we’re doing very well there. As for foreign brands, when we first started negotiating with them, we were not even on the radar. But now that a few brands have come in and done well, more are starting to sit us down and entertain us. 

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Gigi Montinola: The good news in banking is that the banks are very well capitalised. The interest rate is going to stay low for a long time. However, we need to resolve the anti-money laundering issue, address cybercrime, and bring more people into the banking system.

In education, the K-12 programme has already taken effect. That’s bad news if you’re a school operator, because you lose 30 per cent of your students—the incoming freshmen and the outgoing seniors. But I like to call it short-term pain for long-term gain.

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Nina Aguas: There is a very strong interest in the insurance sector, particularly from foreign participants coming into the market. They see it as a sunrise industry. These international companies are more aggressive in terms of marketing. They have access to products and infrastructure from their mother companies that are brought to the Philippines. On one hand it’s good; on the other, we have to step up in terms of the game. 

Photography by Dookie Ducay 

Find out more about what they got to say about the changes they want to see in the new administration, global issues concerning the Philippines, and more in the June 2016 issue of Philippine Tatler, available in all leading newsstands and bookstores. Download it on your digital device via Magzter, Zinio, and PressReader.