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15/07/2012: Fil-Am Youth Leaders Meet with President Aquino and Top Businessmen

15 July 2012, Washington DC. The Filipino American Youth Leadership Program (FAYLP) officially began last July 13 with activities that involved two of the Philippines’ highest public officials.   The ten participants visited Malacanang Palace in the morning, as part of the 7th Ambassadors, Consuls General, and Tourism Directors Tour (ACGTDT), to meet President Benigno S. Aquino III.  This was followed by a call on Vice President Jejomar C. Binay at the Coconut Palace.  Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. led the FAYLP delegation in these engagements.

The group then trooped to the Ayala Museum for a formal briefing on the FAYLP, which was led by Ms. Maria Lourdes Heras-de Leon, President of the Ayala Foundation.  Dr. Tony La Vina, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, led a discussion on Filipino heritage as well as the latest developments in the Philippine economy.  Mr. Fernando Zobel spoke about the Ayala Group of Companies and business opportunities as well as challenges that the companies within the Ayala Group are facing.  A lively question and answer session ensued where the young Fi-Am leaders posed a number of questions to both Dr. La Vina and Mr. Zobel.

The FAYLP participants’ first full day on July 14 began with a meeting with Mr. Joey Concepcion, CEO and President of RFM Corporation, who is also the Founding Trustee of Go Negosyo, a movement that advocates for a positive and enterprising attitude among Filipinos and promotes an entrepreneurial climate as key to reducing poverty in the country.  Mr. Ramon Lopez, Executive Director of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, discussed the history, projects and programs of Go Negosyo.

Mr. Concepcion stressed that success starts with the right attitude. He said that entrepreneurs who are empowered and optimistic are those who become successful in their businesses.  He also mentioned Go Negosyo’s new theme, “Pilipinas Now Is Our Time”, which suggests that now is the right time to invest in the country because of the positive changes, economic surge and increased tourist arrivals taking place. “The Aquino administration’s anti-corruption and good governance agenda have greatly contributed to these developments and now is the golden age for opportunities,” according to Mr. Concepcion.

Go Negosyo also seeks to help struggling entrepreneurs move forward through indirect mentorship. According to Mr. Concepcion, it is during times of crises and misery when opportunities arise and when successful businessmen are born.  Mr. Concepcion was accompanied by young entrepreneurs Enrico Dee, President and CEO of the Foodlink Group of Companies, and Edgar Sia, the man behind the Mang Inasal barbecue fastfood chain.  An engaging discussion took place on a variety of topics, including ways in which the youth in the U.S. could contribute in nation building, policies which encourage an entrepreneurial spirit, Go Negosyo’s partnership with the public sector, and the need for an international branding of the Philippines.

Seated in front of the FAYLP delegates are (l-r) Mr. Enrico Dee, Ambassador Jose Cuisia, Mr. Joey Concepcion, and Mr. Edgar Sia.

At a separate event, Secretary Ramon A. Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) served as the guest of honor of Ambassador Cuisia at the luncheon hosted for the FAYLP delegates at the Tower Club in Makati.  Secretary Carandang is among the youngest members of the Cabinet of President Benigno S. Aquino III.  A graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, Ricky, as he is known to his friends, was a news anchor of ABS-CBN and ANC correspondent before being tapped by President Aquino to head the PCDSPO, which serves as the President’s chief message-crafting body.

Secretary Carandang shared with the FAYLP participants the positive developments being realized in the country as well as the Aquino administration’s pro-poor programs.  He also provided a glimpse of his work as the President’s communications strategist.  The FAYLP participants aired their views on the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, pending legislation in U.S. Congress that have an impact on Filipinos, as well as the general conditions of Filipino Americans.

In the picture above are (l-r) Michael Vea, Louella Cabalona, Greg Cendana, Francine Maigue, Katrina Zulueta, Secretary Ramon Carandang, Ambassador Jose Cuisia, Alex de Ocampo, Steven Raga, JR Calanoc, Angela Lagdameo, Consul General Mario de Leon, and Melissa Apuya.

Later in the evening, the FAYLP participants attended a cocktail reception at the Elks Club also in Makati hosted by Mr. Rhicke Jennings, President of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) of the Philippines, who is also Managing Director of FedEx Philippines.  Other key officers of AmCham, including Mr. John Forbes and Mr. Robert Sears, and its members welcomed the FAYLP participants and shared with them the history of the Chamber and its recent activities and programs, and reiterated the commitment of American business to the development and welfare of the Philippines and its people.  The occasion afforded the participants the opportunity to interact and network with one another, with the commitment to collaborate in the future on activities of mutual interest.

The FAYLP is a program initiated by Ambassador Cuisia that involved the search for ten outstanding young Filipino Americans, who would commit time and resources to engage with the Philippine Foreign Service posts in the U.S. in the promotion of the interests of their respective Filipino American communities.  The project is being undertaken with the support of the Philippine Consulates General in New York, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as sponsorship from the Ayala Corporation, Chevron, Philam Life, Phinma Foundation, Ayala Foundation, and Makati Business Club.  The FAYLP delegates are Melissa Apuya, Louella Cabalona, JR Calanoc, Greg Cendana, Alex de Ocampo, Angela Lagdameo, Steven Raga, Francine Maigue, Michael Vea and Katrina Zulueta.  (END)