Lessons from the frontlines: Takeaways from the 21st MAP International CEO Conference 2023


Dawn broke over the 21st Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) International CEO Conference with the expectation of an enlightening exchange, and by the time I finished my summation, those hopes were surpassed. The Conference was a meld of diverse insights, pivoting from tech-driven sustainability to holistic ASEAN growth, and it is this variety that made it a tour de force.

Beginning with MAP President Dick Du-Baladad, her inaugural words were an invocation to the MAP’s higher purpose in this complex world. Taking a page from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reflections, she argued for embracing the unknown. Not with fear, but with the curiosity of a traveler encountering a new horizon.

Yet, it was the ASEAN Secretary-General, His Excellency Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, who delved deep into the intricacies of economic integration. His words rang clear: in unity, there is recovery. ASEAN’s future isn’t about solitary progress, but about collective resilience. An evocative image he painted was of the ASEAN Blue Economy Framework, focusing on the blue gold within our shores.

Collaboration wasn’t just a theme; it was a clarion call. The birth of the ASEAN Management Organization — a joint effort between the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand — served as tangible evidence. This new organization is more than a committee; it’s a symbol of our collective ambition.

PwC Asia-Pacific and China Chair Raymund Chao’s segment was a deep dive into the potential of the Asia-Pacific region. His message was of optimism. Our region, with its blend of cultures and economies, is not just surviving but thriving. Amidst global challenges, our collective spirit remains unbroken. By focusing on intra-regional trade, investments, and partnerships, we pave the path for collective growth.

However, technology, with its double-edged sword, is reshaping our landscape. It’s bringing us closer, yet also pulling us apart. Mr. Chao’s thoughts served as a timely reminder that while technology can connect, it is trust that truly binds us together.

HSBC Economist for ASEAN Aris Dacanay’s discourse on economics was a treasure trove of insights. His recognition of the Philippines’ potential, especially in the realm of nickel reserves, was illuminating. Here, in the challenges posed by Electric Vehicles and the shifts in global supply chains, lies an opportunity ripe for the taking.

Another leap into the future came from Anders Bringdal and his innovative marine transportation solution. He introduced MobyFly’s hydrofoil boats, a marvel of engineering that promises not only efficient transport but also environmental preservation. For an archipelago like the Philippines, these vessels can be a game-changer. They aren’t just boats; they’re symbols of a greener, smarter future. With the capability of reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions, the idea isn’t just to move faster, but smarter.

However, it wasn’t all just technological marvels and grand economic strategies. Gary Bencheghib, Co-Founder of Sungai Watch and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Emergent Leadership in 2022, offered a humbling reflection of our environment. A vivid memory of his childhood in Bali served as a poignant reminder: Our planet’s health is deteriorating. Bencheghib’s passion is more than just cleaning up rivers; it’s about restoring a bond with nature, which we have somewhat estranged.

His work on the Citarum River resonated deeply. A river once deemed the “world’s most polluted” was given a new lease on life through collective effort. This narrative is a testament to what is possible when communities come together with a shared vision. Bencheghib’s plea was simple yet profound: Recognize the pressing environmental issues and act, not tomorrow, but today.

Now, what are we to make of this assortment of ideas and initiatives?

First, the call for proactive leadership is paramount. Our world is in flux, and only by stepping forward can we shape its direction. Complacency, as many speakers echoed, is the anathema of progress. Our ambitions should always be a step ahead, anticipating challenges and converting them into opportunities.

Secondly, it’s about people. At the heart of every strategy, initiative, or innovation are the lives it impacts. Investing in them, understanding their aspirations, and ensuring their well-being is essential. They aren’t just the backbone of the economy; they are its beating heart.

Finally, we must look beyond the immediate horizon. Long-term thinking isn’t just strategic; it’s sustainable. It ensures that we don’t just react to the present, but we shape the future.

It is important to remember that conferences, like the MAP CEO Conference, are merely starting points. They provide the roadmap, but the journey is ours to undertake. The conversations that took place within those conference walls must find resonance in boardrooms, government halls, and community gatherings. To make tangible progress, these dialogues must translate into actionable steps.

As the curtain fell on this year’s Conference, it was evident that it was more than just an event; it was a convergence of ideas, aspirations, and hopes. The discussions were intense, the insights profound, and the commitment to a better future was palpable.

In closing, the words of Dick Du-Baladad from the beginning of the Conference came full circle. The future is indeed an uncharted territory, but it is one that we must face with hope, diligence, and unwavering commitment. The MAP International CEO Conference of 2023 has lit the torch; it’s now up to us to carry the flame forward.

Junie S. Del Mundo is vice-chair of the MAP CEO Conference Committee, chair of the MAP Tourism Committee and chair and CEO of The EON Group.



Neil Banzuelo

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