Davos foray

Secretary Pascual must take the limelight for this one, considering that Philippine trade relations are the main agenda of our delegation.

Not a junket at all — the Davos, Switzerland trip to attend the World Economic Forum puts President Bongbong Marcos Jr. to a test to prove his mettle before the world’s richest and brightest.

This is the eighth official foreign visit of our President, and it can certainly be considered the toughest. The WEF is filled with smaller and more intimate sessions where attendees from the private sector are free to ask anything under the sun, without much regard for diplomatic courtesy. This is, after all, an economic forum, not a state visit.

This year’s WEF has for its theme, “Cooperation in a Fragmented World,” taking its cue from the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. With this, the Philippine delegation has ready answers to queries on geopolitics, more specifically our complicated relations with China and the US.

Globally known, China’s strong approach to the disputed islands — natural and man-made — in the West Philippine Sea was brought up in some of the sessions. President Marcos Jr. answered well by restating that it is unnecessary to revert to the ‘Cold War mindset’ of choosing one side. Why not be an enemy to none and a friend of all?

From what I can gather as a spectator from home combing through press releases, interviews, and YouTube videos, it appears that the second most outstanding member of the Philippine delegation (the first being the President) is definitely Trade Secretary Fred Pascual who has the tough task of being thousands of miles away from the Philippines’ problems with the rising prices of basic goods to bring more trade investors into the country. Secretary Pascual must take the limelight for this one, considering that Philippine trade relations are the main agenda of our delegation.

Based on a press release of Malacañang, Secretary Pascual was to speak before the WEF sessions on MSMEs Going Global, Next Generation Industrial Strategies, and Trade and Investment Leadership. He was able to meet with senior executives of Chevron and IT-related companies Astranis and Coursera, and tech start-up accelerator for women, She Loves Tech. Not bad for a Cabinet official who has yet to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments!

In an interview with RTVM, Secretary Pascual said one of his biggest objectives as part of the Philippine delegation is to exchange ideas on how to help MSMEs and learn what industrial strategies may be applied considering the big changes in society. These would help the DTI achieve its goal of economic growth for the Philippines. He emphasized that DTI is there to help businesses flourish, from micro-enterprises to big industry players. This can be done by issuing the proper regulations and guidelines, granting financing to small businesses, and through continuous consumer protection.

True enough, when Secretary Pascual returns to the Philippines, DTI would immediately convene the National Price Coordinating Council to tackle the onion crisis. This would address the onion supply issue and the cap on its retail price, as suggested by lawmakers recently. Verily, the rise in onion prices cannot be attributed to DTI, while it may be the very agency that should intervene to monitor and control the price increase in onions.

I have not been to Switzerland so I am unsure of the price of onions in Davos, but let’s hope the delegation would be bringing the appropriate ‘pasalubongs’ when they fly back home. Congratulations to President Marcos Jr., Secretary Pascual, and the Philippine delegation for a successful foray to Davos, Switzerland for WEF 2023!

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