March 2024

SGV thought leadership on pressing issues faced by chief executives in today’s economic landscape. Articles are published every Monday in the Economy section of the BusinessWorld newspaper.
25 March 2024 Marie Stephanie C. Tan-Hamed and Katrina F. Francisco

Multipolarity and de-risking: Navigating geopolitical uncertainties (Second Part)

Second of two partsFaced with the prospect of an increasingly uncertain future, the world faces an era of unprecedented change. Rising geopolitical tensions and major shifts in the global market may propel organizations to adapt and rethink their strategies, with two critical concepts coming to the fore: multipolarity and de-risking.The EY Geostrategic Outlook is an annual report by the EY Geostrategic Business Group (GBG) that selects the top geopolitical developments for the year by analyzing the global political risk environment. The GBG first conducts a crowdsourced horizon scanning exercise with subject matter resources to identify potential risks, then conducts an impact assessment to narrow down the top geopolitical developments that are both highly impactful and highly probable for companies worldwide.In the first part of this article, we discussed the evolving multipolarity in geopolitics, specifically tackling the developments surrounding the geopolitical multiverse, AI, the oceans, and competition for essential commodities. These underscore the need for economic diversification and resilient supply chains due to increased geopolitical disruptions. However, it also aggravates global policy coordination challenges, escalating potential transnational uncertainties.The second theme is de-risking, with governments increasingly combining economic policy with national security to stimulate domestic production of critical products in sectors such as semiconductors, telecommunications, renewable energy, electric vehicles, and biotechnologies. This trend, more prevalent in 2024, indicates a shift in policy focus towards national security over pure economic considerations, possibly fueling inflation and hindering global innovation due to increased government intervention in supply chains and investments.Global elections supercycle With a wave of elections happening in geopolitically significant markets representing more than half of the global population and the global GDP, this global elections supercycle will generate policy and regulatory uncertainty. This in turn has long-term implications for industrial strategies, ongoing military conflicts, and climate policies. The outcome of Taiwan’s presidential election, which concluded last 13 January, may affect political and economic relations with Mainland China as well as broader geopolitical dynamics. Later this year, campaign dynamics from the US elections could increase volatility for businesses, while election outcomes can result in far-reaching shifts on domestic and foreign policy issues on global alliances, regulations, and climate change. Economic securityRecent global developments have increased geopolitical rivalries and heightened the neo-statism (a new cross-party consensus about needing a more interventionist state) trend, leading to a greater focus on economic self-sufficiency and increased intervention in supply chains. In 2024, de-risking global interdependencies is expected to be a critical tool in geostrategic competition, with policies targeting reduced reliance on geopolitical competitors, promoting domestic industry competitiveness, and enhancing sociopolitical stability. The White House readout on the meeting between PBBM and VP Harris on the sidelines of the November 2023 APEC meetings in San Francisco states that VP Harris announced a “new partnership with the Government of the Philippines to grow and diversify the global semiconductor ecosystem under the International Technology Security and Innovation (ITSI) Fund, created by the CHIPS Act of 2022. This partnership will help create a more resilient, secure, and sustainable global semiconductor value chain.”Particularly impacted will be sectors like aerospace, defense, and advanced digital technologies, where stringent economic security policies will be enforced. Traditional strategic sectors, like energy and critical infrastructure, will see regulations and incentives used to protect or promote domestic production. Emerging strategic sectors, such as healthcare and agriculture, will come into greater focus with regulations aimed at increasing resilience to supply chain disruptions. Value chain diversification According to the July 2023 EY CEO Outlook Pulse survey, 99% of CEOs plan strategic changes in response to geopolitical challenges such as government tensions and policies encouraging value chain diversification. This creates political risks for companies entering or expanding in alternative markets in 2024. Despite ongoing investment in developed markets, geopolitical swing states are expected to be key to diversification efforts. Country-level political risks, infrastructure quality, labor dynamics, global interest rates, and government incentives will influence these decisions.Sustainability considerations, including carbon taxes and emissions reporting requirements, will further shape the diversification agenda. The 2024 election supercycle intensifies policy uncertainties in several markets affecting labor laws, infrastructure investments, and industry policies, adding another layer of complexity to diversification and investment decisions.Sustainability Currently, some countries are prioritizing economic growth and energy security over emissions reductions, leading to inconsistent sustainability regulations. Some governments are boosting their domestic green economy while potentially slowing the implementation of sustainability regulations to meet short-term economic goals. Green policies could face opposition if they are viewed as protectionist or discriminatory. For example, the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), a tariff on carbon-intensive products, may trigger global trade tensions as impacted countries may retaliate with their own tariffs on European goods. However, it can also act as a key driver for developments in international carbon pricing policy, as several countries are now seen either exploring or creating their own CBAM or are revisiting their current carbon taxation levels. For the Philippines, understanding how CBAM may impact direct exporters to EU of scoped-in industries, including looking at those industries where the raw materials of scoped-in industries are coming from the country, should be prioritized. This is aside from the legislative actions within the country exploring the implementation of an emissions trading scheme or the imposition of a carbon tax on the industries that contribute most to our country’s emissions.     Consequently, geopolitical tensions could grow between countries advocating for ambitious climate action and those perceived as impeding this progression. Despite these tensions, geopolitical competition could increase green investments in emerging markets, with major players like China, the US, and the EU targeting geopolitical swing states.Climate adaptationWhile the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initially focused on reducing greenhouse emissions, in 2024, about 80% of its parties have established a national adaptation plan, policy or strategy due to increasing global temperatures. For instance, the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change highlights that the Philippines’ approach on climate change identifies climate change adaptation as its anchor strategy, with climate change mitigation as a function of adaptation. This is mainly a result of the country’s less than 1% contribution to global emissions and the various studies highlighting the vulnerability of the Philippines to the impacts of climate change, with the February 2024 Swiss Re publication, Changing Climates: The Heat is (Still) On, indicating that the country suffers the most significant economic losses as a percentage of GDP mainly resulting from flooding and tropical cyclones. It is because of the heightening risk and accelerating climate change impacts experienced globally that the urgency for more actions relating to adaptation have increased. Combined with the more modest growth in adaptation finance flows, the global adaptation funding gap is widening, with developing countries needing about USD212 billion per year up to 2030 and around USD239 billion per year from 2030 to 2050, based on the 2023 Global Landscape of Climate Finance, issued by the Climate Policy Initiative. Geopolitics and adaptation funding for developing nations have previously been at the forefront of climate negotiations. This will only continue, as central to the politics of adaptation funding is the fact that countries such as the Philippines have contributed almost nothing to making climate change happen, and yet are the ones experiencing the first and worst impacts as a result. C-level considerations to navigate geopolitical uncertaintiesThe evolving geopolitical landscape calls for a thorough recalibration of business strategies for organizations to navigate through uncertainties effectively. By embracing multipolarity and de-risking strategies, organizations can foster resilience and agility amid heightened geopolitical competition.While juggling these challenges, sustainability remains critical. Conflicting interests may lead to inconsistent regulations in the short-term, but moving toward a greener economy remains paramount. Therefore, organizations must prioritize green investments and climate adaptation measures in their strategic planning.Navigating the geopolitical uncertainties of 2024 and beyond requires proactively anticipating the shifts in economic policies, regulations, and global relations. The exact path may still be uncharted, but understanding and responding to these developments will help boards remain competitive in the global market and future-proof their organizations. Marie Stephanie C. Tan-Hamed is a Strategy and Transactions (SaT) Partner and the PH Government and Public Sector leader of SGV & Co, and Katrina F. Francisco is a Partner from the Climate Change and Sustainability Services of SGV & Co.This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

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18 March 2024 Noel P. Rabaja

Multipolarity and de-risking: Navigating geopolitical uncertainties (First Part)

First of two partsThe world faces an era of unprecedented change, and the geopolitical landscape is anticipated to be volatile and unstable in 2024. These major shifts in the global market along with rising geopolitical tensions may propel organizations to adapt and rethink their strategies. According to the EY 2024 Geostrategic Outlook, organizations will need to consider two critical concepts as they plan for geopolitical disruptions: multipolarity and de-risking.The EY Geostrategic Outlook is an annual report by the EY Geostrategic Business Group (GBG) that analyzes the global political risk environment and selects the top geopolitical developments for the year. The GBG conducts a crowdsourced horizon scanning exercise with subject matter resources to identify potential risks. The scan encompasses the four categories of political risk in the geostrategy framework — geopolitical, country, regulatory and societal — throughout all regions of the world. The GBG then conducts an impact assessment to narrow down the top geopolitical developments that are both highly impactful and highly probable for global companies.In this first part of the article, we discuss the evolving multipolarity in geopolitics, where a greater number of powerful actors shape an increasingly complex global system. Uncertain relationships between powers like the US, EU, and China, and growing influences of smaller states and actors highlight this theme. It underscores the need for economic diversification and resilient supply chains due to increased geopolitical disruptions.The geopolitical multiverseAccording to the report, the growing influence of players seeking to change the status quo will create a more complex geopolitical multiverse. On top of tensions from US, EU and China influencing global dynamics, actions by geopolitical swing states (meaning countries that are not specifically aligned with any major power) will play more important roles in driving geopolitics this 2024. In particular, countries with resources across the energy value chain, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Brazil, are expected to play key roles in their respective regions.In 2023 alone, even as the Ukraine war persisted, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and G20 (Group of Twenty) welcomed significant new members, hoping to expand their influence in global affairs. In Northeast Asia, Japan and South Korea restored bilateral diplomacy. These developments and others discussed in greater detail in the report show that geopolitics has become a multiverse of increasingly complicated mixes of alliances and rivalries, with overlapping bilateral, regional and various other institutions and grouping. AIThe 2023 EY CEO Outlook Pulse study shares that nearly all their CEO respondents (99%) plan to invest in artificial intelligence (AI). On the other hand, governments have been grappling with how best to regulate AI as technological advances increase its significance to national security and geopolitical competition. This 2024, the dual race to innovate and regulate AI will see an accelerated shift toward geopolitical blocs. Domestically, governments want to foster innovation to compete geopolitically, simultaneously seeking to regulate it before the technology outpaces policymakers. While seeking to capture the promises of the technology, such as advancements in national security, improved healthcare outcomes, and enhanced economic productivity, governments will also try to design AI regulations to reduce the likelihood of macro risks. These risks include increases in political instability due to misinformation campaigns, the potential for social and economic dislocations as AI takes on more job functions, heightened national security, and cybersecurity risks. While AI will not necessarily reshape the global balance of power in the year ahead, it will increasingly become a significant arena of geopolitical competition. Domestic challenges in the US and ChinaThe US and China, the two biggest economies in the world, are facing major domestic challenges of their own for various reasons. These challenges will continue to raise political risks within each market, will have significant implications for geopolitics, and pose downside risks to the global economy this year. Such downside risks to the global economy will likely have significant implications for emerging economies such as the Philippines.The 2024 US election will heighten societal tensions and policy uncertainty. With the partisan divide in American trust in various news sources, there is a potential increase in risk of some population segments questioning the legitimacy of the election, in turn possibly perpetuating policymaking challenges. On the other hand, China faces a challenge stemming from whether their official policy mix will effectively address potential financial and macroeconomic weaknesses that may come about. Cyclical challenges in their real estate market and their high municipal government debt levels will likely persist, and may result in policymakers introducing periodic, targeted actions to reduce the risk of financial crisis.OceansRecent events such as the destruction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and more frequent freedom of navigation exercises highlight growing geopolitical tensions. With almost half the global population living within 100 miles of the sea, competition over access to and control of the world’s oceans will intensify in 2024, with implications for data flows, food supplies, supply chains, and energy security. As much as 90% of global goods trade is shipped through maritime routes, and many of the busiest maritime transit paths are at risk of political disruption. At least 95% of global data flows through undersea cables. The Luzon Strait is strategically located between Luzon and Taiwan, connecting the South China Sea and the Western Pacific, and as such, is important for global commerce and cable communications.Competition for essential commoditiesThe war in Ukraine, climate change, and the energy transition are shifting global supply and demand dynamics for various essential commodities. This leads to more intense geopolitical competition in 2024 to secure supplies of three key commodities in particular: critical minerals, food, and water. The most visible area of commodity competition will be for minerals that power EV batteries and the broad energy transition. Food instability and insecurity remains a top concern from the 2023 Geostrategic Outlook, with climate change continuing to affect food production and crop yields. Lastly, water may become a subject of commodity competition due to significant changes in precipitation levels, potentially escalating tensions in water-stressed regions. In the second part of this article, we will discuss the theme of de-risking, with governments increasingly combining economic policy with national security to stimulate domestic production of critical products in sectors such as semiconductors, telecommunications, renewable energy, electric vehicles, and biotechnologies. This trend, more prevalent in 2024, indicates a shift in policy focus towards national security over pure economic considerations, possibly fueling inflation and hindering global innovation due to increased government intervention in supply chains and investments. Noel P. Rabaja the Strategy and Transactions (SaT) Service Leader of SGV & Co.This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

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11 March 2024 Vivian C. Ruiz

Empowering women in the workplace

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is Inspire Inclusion, which aims to cultivate belonging, relevance, and empowerment for all women—regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, or sexuality. Furthermore, IWD is a global celebration of the cultural, socioeconomic, and political achievements of women. This day reminds us of the progress made toward gender equality and social equity; however, there is so much more that can be done.A 2023 LinkedIn deep-dive study on gender representation leadership data worldwide, supported by the platform’s workforce data and research, shows that despite longstanding efforts to promote gender equality in the workplace, women remain disproportionately underrepresented in leadership roles. This is particularly true in the technology, information, and media industries. This gap not only hinders the potential of organizations to thrive but also perpetuates gender biases, underscoring the need for more inclusive practices. One of the key pillars of IWD 2024 is promoting diversity in leadership. Therefore, there is a need to continue uplifting women, especially those in marginalized groups. By fostering inclusion, organizations can leverage diversity, improve decision-making, and innovate. At SGV, over 60% of our 6,000-strong organization comprise women. In fact, as of December 2023, women make up half of our Partners and Principals combined. Inclusion means so much more than providing a physical space for women. It’s about ensuring that their voices are heard, amplified, and valued. In line with this, SGV continues its journey to accelerate gender equality by building an inclusive environment and fostering a culture of equal opportunity and meritocracy.As we celebrate women in March, we see five areas where we can all support and empower women to enter, thrive, and lead in the world of business.1. Encourage more women to go into businessWhether in small, medium, or large businesses, promoting entrepreneurship among women helps balance the economic playing field. Today, only 2% of venture capital funding globally is allocated to women-owned businesses. Women need support to grow and scale sustainable businesses, including access to networks, mentorship, and resources. SGV, for example, participates in EY’s Woman. Fast Forward movement, which offers women access to vital resources, support, and networks that can help them break barriers in the business world and attain leadership roles. 2. Bridge the gender gap in STEMIn the Philippines, only 36.3% of the workforce in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries are women, according to LinkedIn data cited in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2023. This reflects the broader global trend where less than 30% of researchers are women. The industry has an underrepresentation of women at every seniority level, with the gap only widening for more senior positions.The EY Ripples and Women in Technology initiative aims to change this story. The EY STEM App, a brainchild of this initiative, is a free, gamified platform developed for girls aged 13 to 18. SGV has launched this initiative locally, bringing the app to schoolgirls in different parts of the Philippines. It aims to inspire them to pursue STEM careers, contribute towards a knowledge-based economy, and become catalysts of change. 3. Elevate women to the C-levelAccording to 2020 data from the World Economic Forum, the Philippines is only one of four countries where women outnumber men in senior and leadership roles. However, there is still a challenge in penetrating the upper part of the organization ladder. A comprehensive national study, titled Women in the Philippine C-Suite released in 2021 by the Makati Business Club (MBC) in partnership with the European Union, UN Women, WeEmpowerAsia,and the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE), revealed that only 3% of C-suite positions are occupied by women. The study showed that women need different support mechanisms to guide them towards higher career paths.Consequently, there is a need for other models of leadership. Unlike ones that follow hierarchical structures and protocols, which often limit innovative input from the bottom up, future-fit leadership focuses on encouraging contributions from all levels of the organization. The future-fit leadership model empowers women to excel in C-level positions by harnessing their distinct leadership qualities and contributions to decision-making.4. Champion gender diversity through meaningful partnershipsSGV supports concerted efforts to promote gender diversity, equity, and inclusivity in the business sector. In a similar vein, companies should explore connecting and engaging with like-minded organizations that share the same ideals. By sharing experiences and ideating ways to challenge the status quo, women can support each other in closing the gender gap.In addition, the firm was a founding member of PBCWE, which unites highly respected Philippine companies in a shared commitment to be supportive employers for women through equitable and inclusive practices in the workplace.5. Include men in the conversationIn 2021, SGV launched the #SheInspires series to showcase the inspiring journeys of accomplished women leaders. It also tackles critical yet often overlooked issues, such as single parenthood, unequal household duties, and burnout. Including men in the conversation could be instrumental in addressing these issues. For example, one of the #SheInspires sessions tackles the role of men in advancing gender equality in the workplace. In addition, SGV actively participates in the Champion of Change Coalition, previously known as Male Champions of Change Philippines, where our SGV Country Managing Partner serves as a member. Since its launch in 2020, this initiative taps key male business and industry leaders to accelerate transformational changes to close gender gaps, advance the diversity and inclusion agenda, and champion women’s economic empowerment in their respective organizations and society at large.Promoting inclusivity in the long-termOverall, an inclusive workplace drives innovation, inspires employee productivity, and generates sustainable growth. Moving forward, let us focus on creating safe spaces for women where their voices are heard, their insights and strategies take shape, and their achievements are celebrated. True to the theme of IWD 2024, by inspiring inclusion, we can build a better working world. Vivian C. Ruiz is the Vice Chair and Deputy Managing Partner of SGV & Co.This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

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04 March 2024 Lucil Q. Vicerra

Compliance made more convenient: BoC updates and enhanced post-clearance audit

While there was a slowdown in customs post-clearance audits (PCAs) in 2021 and 2022 primarily due to the pandemic, the Bureau of Customs (BoC) Post-Clearance Audit Group (PCAG) ramped up its activities thereafter.The BOC issued a total of 932 Audit Notification Letters (ANLs) in 2022 and 2023, marking the audit commencement for hundreds of importers. With the BoC’s increased target collection of P959 billion this year, the BoC is expected to continue issuing more ANLs and conducting more PCAs. ONGOING PCASA PCA is a post-release evaluation conducted by the BoC and is intended to verify the truthfulness and accuracy of declared customs values, and tariff classifications of imports, among others. It is an exercise performed by the BoC through the PCAG to assess importers’ compliance with their obligations to pay correct duties and taxes on importation and keep records in accordance with law. A PCA typically involves an audit of import activities made in the last three years, and a review of all import documents and records relating to such activities. The current auditees are companies, both multinational and local, from almost all industries with regular import activities. Even companies located in economic zones and enjoying duty and tax incentives are being audited to check on their compliance with the conditions set for exemption. Accredited Super Green Lane importers, who are enjoying faster clearance of goods, are likewise being audited as part of their commitment to submit themselves to periodic review. In selecting importers for audit, the PCAG uses a risk management system to conduct systematic benchmarking and review of historical trade data, allowing it to determine compliance markers. It also analyzes import data from the BoC’s Management Information System and Technology Group and gathers derogatory information from different customs offices. It also seeks to gather information from the proposed exchange of information with various government agencies. In a PCA, the importer is required to actively participate, discuss with the PCAG officers, and provide the examiners full and free access to records. Importers are expected to address questions relating to correctness of declarations and submissions made by customs brokers on their behalf. FILING A PRIOR DISCLOSURE PROGRAM (PDP) APPLICATIONPursuant to international best customs practices, the PDP authorizes the BoC Commissioner to accept disclosure applications by importers of their errors and omissions in import declarations that resulted in duty and tax liabilities on past imports. When availed of by importers, the PDP effectively helps to prevent a full customs audit and minimizes the imposition of steep penalties otherwise imposed in a regular audit. The general penalty for negligence, for example, which is 125% of the basic deficiency duties and taxes, may be reduced to 10% in a successful PDP filing. Importers should take note, however, that the PDP mechanism is only available within a limited time frame, that is, 90 calendar days from the receipt of an ANL, in case there exists an ANL served. In the absence of an ANL, the PDP may generally be filed at any time. INCREASE IN PDP FILINGSRemarkably, the PCAG continues to drive compliance of importers, as shown in the availment of the PDP mechanism where importers, whether under audit or not, voluntarily disclose their errors and pay the deficiency duties and/or taxes. In 2023, the BoC collected P1.793 billion from PDP applications, which is 12.6% higher than the PDP collection in 2022 of P1.592 billion. The collection from PDP applications accounts for more than 91% of PCAG’s total collections of P1.959 billion in 2023. This significant increase in PDP payments shows that more importers are voluntarily disclosing their exposures, demonstrating good faith, the commitment to comply with customs laws and regulations, and the desire to contribute to the government revenue collection efforts. The PCAG continues to encourage importers to avail of the PDP instead of letting PCAs ensue. COMMON CUSTOMS ISSUESThe filing of a PDP application by an importer presupposes having knowledge of customs issues to be disclosed and quantified duties and taxes to be paid to customs. Hence, for a PDP application to be successful, it is imperative for the importer to conduct a prior internal customs compliance review.   In the review, importers should make sure that the components of the dutiable value of imports are fully captured in the declarations to customs. These include checking on the proper declaration of price or cost and adjustments such as insurance, freight, royalties or license fees, interest, proceeds of subsequent resale, as well as transfer pricing adjustments. Importers should also be keen on reviewing the proper classification of goods for purposes of determining the applicable duty or tariff rates. Other common issues noted during a PCA include the improper declaration of the components of the landed cost for VAT purposes, improper calculations of excise tax in cases applicable, disallowed preferential duty rates due to missing certificates of origin, and misuse of tax incentives, if any, to name a few. Specific issues and considerations may apply to certain industries. Importers can also make use of the review to monitor compliance with administrative requirements, principally record-keeping. COMPLIANCE MADE MORE CONVENIENTOverall, it seems more prudent for importers, whether under audit or not, to avail of the PDP in view of reduced penalties and simpler processes. It is certainly less cumbersome than undergoing the full PCA process. If a PDP application is found to be a full disclosure and is well-supported, it will likely be approved to the benefit of the importer. To prepare for customs audit and manage the filing of PDP applications, if need be, importers may consider establishing robust internal processes for imports, creating a strong and adequately supported supply chain team, ensuring consistent interactions and coordination with customs brokers and other providers, and regularly reviewing its overall customs practices. This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co. or EY.  Lucil Q. Vicerra is the head of Indirect Tax/Global Trade & Customs of SGV & Co. 

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