It’s so easy to give up on the Philippines when you listen to how politicians and whiners describe the prospects of this country. However, if you talk to entrepreneurs—people who really put a stake in the system, people who do business—you could get a different perspective. I had the chance to interview Howard Belton, a British citizen and chair person of Unilever Philippines, a multinational, last week and came out of it a little bit more optimistic. I asked him asked why Unilever is still here in the Philippines when analysts often complain about everything including bad infrastructure and high power costs. “What do you see that other investors have failed to see?” I asked.
He answered: “We have a big export business [here]. There’s no question that infrastructure and power costs are a problem. But, what we found is that there are some positive factors—first of all, flexibility. I think that both the entrepreneurs in the Philippines and the individual employees are very flexible. They’re very willing to try new ways of doing things which is beneficial. Second is customer service. It seems to be easy here in the Philippines to build up customer centered approach which is very important when you’re in manufacturing."
I also asked him if he likes working in the Philippines.
He answered: "It’s been a pleasure living here. Normally Unilever’s term is 3 years. I’ve been here for 7 and a half years so I always say I can’t complain anymore about the Philippines because I’m here on voluntary basis (laughs). I like working in the Philippines because it is easy to do new things here. People are very easily motivated to change things so it’s very easy to get new things done. We pioneer in many things for Unilever here and for me that’s a great satisfaction as the leader. And from a personal point of view Filipinos are very nice people to live with."
(Please visit Photographs and Memories for some new pictures and personal travel notes.)