In the year 2016, I reached a crossroads in my 20 years of professional life. I held a senior position in government which can be considered a major achievement for someone who started out as an insecure young man from a poor province who worked hard and rose from the ranks, without any political backing. Given the impending election and change in the leadership structure, I thought I’d give it until June 2016 and then move on to teaching and research options, things I wanted to do full time.

I thought I was done with my role in building up the Philippine Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) Program, particularly in the area of policy reforms and capacity building for Philippines cities and municipalities in pursuing real PPP options for local economic development.

However, it was also in 2016 that I got admitted to the ASEAN Leaders Programme (ALP), a carefully structured 2-part (Singapore and New York) leadership course partnered by the ASEAN Foundation and run by Common Purpose, which would go on to become a turning point in this major professional life crossroad. The ALP offered me front seat in an enriching journey into the core and essence, the variety and cultural complexities as well as the practicalities and nuances of leadership by example; by experience; and through institutional, and personal collaborations. The programme afforded me a personal peek into the lives of real leaders in the ASEAN and in the United States, in various institutional and organizational settings – public offices, multinational corporations, civic organizations, etc.

This provided me with a new perspective about myself as a leader, and public servant in my country, and its expanding platform for growth in the region. It made me realize there’s still a lot I can do, not just for the Philippine PPP Programme and our local governments, but even for the emerging PPP agenda pursuing much needed infrastructure requirements in the ASEAN. I finally understood that my deep involvement in the field of infrastructure development and finance (i.e. ASEAN Connectivity Initiative; ASEAN Investment and Financing Policy and Research, PPP Capacity Building) as Philippine representative to various regional research programmes, dialogues, forums, and training programs, were in fact preparatory inputs to a much bigger role in pursuing and advocating PPPs and infrastructure development in the region.

In November 2016, the newly elected Philippine President confirmed my reappointment as the Philippine PPP Center’s second highest officer and as the continuing representative of the Center in ASEAN related matters.  Early this year, I was requested by the Philippine Permanent Mission to the ASEAN to represent the Center in the upcoming workshop in Indonesia on the Master-plan for the ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 Initiatives.  Around two months ago, I briefed visitors from Vietnam and Laos about the Philippine PPP Program, its experience, and the lessons they could replicate. Last month, I received an email from my counterpart at the Indonesia PPP Office requesting the Center to host five staff interns to learn about our Project Development and Monitoring Facility (PDMF) for PPP project development and transaction advisory support. Earlier this month, I received a request from the Asian Development Bank (ADB)  in Indonesia asking if I can share with the Indonesian PPP Unit, our experience in setting up a PPP knowledge management system.

Indeed, I am not yet done. I may just have started to take on more meaningful leadership roles in sharing, imparting, guiding and nurturing continued learning and growth for my country and my region.

Thank you ASEAN Leaders Programme for the journey and this new perspective to which you have opened my eyes.  You didn’t just make me understand leadership. You actually made me believe in myself and in leadership as honest and committed public service.