Rubbing elbows with ASEAN business giants? Here's the price

MANILA, Philippines – Deal-making at the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila usually happened at carefully orchestrated hotel or government office meetings as well as intimate dinners. For entrepreneurs who attended a 3-day ASEAN business forum, rubbing elbows with the region's elite required $100 (P5,000) to $1,000 (P50,000) a seat.

Handled by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ABAC), the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) took place from November 12 to November 14 in Parañaque City.

To be invited to speak before the ABIS, one typically had to be chief of a large institution, an influential government official, an executive of a multilateral lender, or perhaps, a state leader.

Some speakers who were tapped for this year's forum include Nazir Razak, chairman of Malaysian banking giant CIMB Group Holdings Bhd; Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman of the Philippines' oldest conglomerate, Ayala Corporation; as well as Nick Nash, president of Singapore unicorn Sea Group.

AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes, ports and casino magnate Enrique Razon Jr, Metro Pacific Investments Corporation and PLDT Incorporated chairman Manuel Pangilinan, as well as Airbnb Southeast Asia manager Robin Kwok were also invited to speak.

State leaders such as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, as well as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered keynote speeches.

Opportunities to watch such prominent speakers do not come for free. In the case of the ABIS, ticket prices ranged from $100 (P5,000) to $1,000 (P50,000) each. Those who bought general admission tickets ($100 each) got a conference pass, seat for a theater setup, a packed lunch, and a conference kit.

Meanwhile, attendees who bought bronze tickets ($250 each) got a conference pass, seat for a banquet setup, plated lunch, networking privileges with global business delegates, as well as conference kits. (READ: Pangilinan still optimistic over oil hunt in West Philippine Sea)

Those who had silver tickets ($500 each) were given a conference pass, reserved seat for a banquet setup, plated lunch, networking privileges with global business delegates, and conference kits.

Lastly, those who had the most expensive gold tickets ($5,000 each) were given a conference pass, premium reserved seat with close proximity to the stage, networking privileges with global business delegates, conference kits, as well as an exclusive lunch at either the Fresh International Buffet or Waterside Latin-Inspired Cuisine at Solaire Resort and Casino.

Those who were spotted with gold tickets include Hans Sy, brother of SM Investments Corporation's Teresita Sy-Coson, who was one of the speakers; and the Aboitizes.

SPOTTED. Hans Sy of the SM Group is one of the gold ticket holders at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit. Photo by Chrisee Dela Paz/Rappler

SPOTTED. Hans Sy of the SM Group is one of the gold ticket holders at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.

Photo by Chrisee Dela Paz/Rappler

ABAC, meanwhile, gave a 30% discount to microentrepreneurs and startup firms.

For businesspeople, the real work happened before a panel started, when it ended, during lunch or coffee breaks, or when speakers exited the Solaire Grand Ballroom – the main venue of the 3-day business summit.

During breaks, a sea of attendees – most of whom were entrepreneurs all over Southeast Asia – were introducing themselves to each other, exchanging business cards, and giving an overview of what their business is like.

An estimated 1,700 top-level executives in diverse sectors, distinguished thought leaders, government leaders, academe and research professionals, as well as entrepreneurs joined the 3-day summit, said ABAC.

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 – Rappler.com