THE Philippine arm of an Asia-Pacific business council is urging the country to take on financial technology tools to assist small businesses recovering from the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council (ABAC) had a series of virtual discussions in May and June to develop recommendations to address the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

The Philippines advocated for boosting financial inclusion for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), ABAC Philippines said in a press release on Friday.

“A number of innovative solutions in providing financial relief and assistance for SMEs such as in insolvency regimes and digital IDs, can be leveraged effectively when the technologies and systems are in place,” ABAC PH member and co-chair of ABAC’s Finance and Economics Working Group Joanne de Asis said.

She said that, among ABAC members, fintech entities should have access to support from the government. Members should also upgrade and digitize systems for access to finance and asset management, and develop standardized or manual tool kits for small businesses to operate once lockdown restrictions are relaxed.

ABAC PH member Francis Chua said small businesses need strategic interventions.

“What our SMEs need is not temporary relief, but support mechanisms to build their capacities, to have access to finance and to tap new markets,” he said.

Sabin M. Aboitiz, Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. president and chief executive officer, said that digital technology is critical.

“Business, big and small, as well as communities should embrace digital transformation if we are to compete let alone survive in a post-COVID environment,” he said.

ABAC in its response to the crisis is focusing on four issues, including digital technology, supply chain resilience, open markets for goods and services, and MSME support.

The council discussed trade barriers to essential goods, digital infrastructure for work and education, and data privacy. — Jenina P. Ibañez