The Covid-19 Pandemic has brought about many changes in the way we do things. In our meetings for example, we no longer physically meet but do it online or virtually instead. This can limit meaningful discussions and interactions compared to the face-to-face meetings, but the Economic Development Committee (EDC) of the Regional Development Council VI has turned this situation into an opportunity.

The EDC, chaired by Mr. Francisco Gentoral – the Executive Director of the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation, Inc., has invited reputable and expert resource persons from across the country and abroad for its 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Quarter Regular Meetings taking advantage of the online platform. Inviting resource persons in online meetings is convenient and not costly because there is no need to make travel arrangements and accommodations for the guests. It is also convenient for the resource persons because they need not make elaborate arrangements with their institutions for the engagement and spend valuable time for travel to and from the venue.

For each of the EDC quarter meetings in CY 2020, an agenda was set by the EDC with different themes in order to expand the learning of its members on matters relating to economic development and as guideon topics for committee discussion.

For the second quarter the theme was “Building Capacities in Innovation and Competitiveness.” Dr. Bernardo Villegas, a renowned Philippine economist, author, and educator of the University of Asia and the Pacific was invited to talk on “Investment Climate Policy and Program Response to COVID-19.” He presented research findings and reports from reputable institutions showing that the Philippines is one of the most promising emerging markets. This is partly attributed to years of strong monetary and fiscal policies implemented by the current and the immediate past three administrations.He recommended investments in four (4) sunrise industries of Region VI for economic recovery, namely: food and agribusiness, digital industries, health care, and education.

For the third quarter the theme was “Strengthening Agriculture and Tourism Development.”  Ms. Madhu Raghunath – Sector Leader for Sustainable Development and Mr. Eli Weiss – Senior Agriculture Economist, both of the World Bank Group, were invited to present the result of their study on “Transforming Philippine Agriculture during Covid-19 and Beyond.” The study highlighted the status of Philippine agriculture, the strategies of the government and the findings and recommendations that should transform the Philippine agriculture to enable it to reach its full potential.

In the fourth quarter the theme was “Groundwork for Sustainable Investments.” The meeting was graced by three resource persons: Dr. Melissa Walsh – Program Manager of Ocean Finance Initiative for the Asian Development Bank, Ms. Maria Josella Pangilinan – Climate Resilience Director of Conservation International Philippines, and Mr. Carlo Delantar – the award-winning social entrepreneur engaged at the Nexus of Environmental Opportunities and Challenges in the Philippines.

Dr. Walsh is a leading global expert in ocean finance and the blue economy and was recently the co-lead of the Ocean Finance paper for the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. She shared about the ADB Oceans Finance Initiative. Ms. Pangilinan shared Green-Grey Nature-based Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation and Risk Reduction. She explained that the two types of measures to address climate change are to mitigate and to adapt. Conservation International currently focus interventions on coastal areas in the Philippines. Green-gray infrastructure combines conservation and restoration of ecosystems with the selective use of conventional engineering approaches to provide people with solutions that deliver climate change resilience and adaptation benefits.

Mr. Delantar shared on Greening Businesses and the Circular Economy. The concept of circular economy is to design out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in sustainable use in order to promote the regeneration rather than the degeneration of our natural systems.

The EDC recognizes that the online resource persons in its meetings have really contributed a lot in broadening the knowledge of the members and for the committee’s sharing when it presents its quarterly report to the RDC. With this experience, the EDC will try to institutionalize the invitation of resource persons in its regular online meetings. (PDIPBD – EDC Secretariat)