For Philab CEO, transparency is a must in business
It’s the same golden path that guided heroine Dorothy Gale to the glorious Emerald City in the novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which leads to genuine success in governance and business.
For businessman Hector Thomas Navasero, the symbolic “yellow brick road” continues to motivate him to maintain fairness and integrity over “not accepting (or offering) bribes” in his transactions, particularly with the government.
“Sometimes, I say no to a deal. Of course, I lose potential revenue but at the end of the day it’s worth following the yellow brick road,” Navasero firmly tells the Inquirer in an exclusive interview.
Navasero is the CEO of the country’s leading distributor of laboratory facilities, furniture and equipment—Philab Industries Inc.
Philab had been catering government institutions especially in the field of education and science and technology since its establishment in 1960.
Since taking over the company after his father’s passing in 2013, Navasero has been actively pushing internal and external transparency efforts which, in turn, paved way for the recognition of Philab as a member of Trace International in the same year.
Trace International is a nonprofit business association that operates to increase commercial transparency for multinational companies by raising the standard of antibribery compliance.
Trace members are considered “pre-vetted” partners for multinational companies seeking to do business with other stakeholders who share their commitment to transparent business practices.
Armed with vast experience in various public-private partnerships (PPP) deals, Navasero strongly believes transparency in business is a must, and hopes to become a role model for his colleagues in business circles.
“It’s the right thing to do. I don’t think about it. I just do it. Hopefully, I’d be a good example for the rest of my fellow businessmen,” he says.
Staying “straight” has been a tried and tested formula in attracting big deals, especially for the company that only targets high-value projects.
“I will keep the straight path because, at the end of the day, I’m going for bigger projects and it has to be clean. I make a lot more money following it,” he adds.
So what constitutes an act of corruption? For him, it does not necessarily involve millions or billions of pesos, but can come even in the simplest form.
“A gift is corruption already. Giving a box of (doughnuts) is corruption already,” he says.
He further defines corruption as an act of providing physical or non-physical service to an entity or individual “that will change the outcome to your favor.”
“[But] if I donate a school to DepEd after I won a billion-pesos, I’m just giving back. [It’s not corruption] because I’m not changing the outcome of the bid anymore. I already won the bid but I wanna give a school because I made so much money,” he quips.
But it’s not the dishonest politicians but some crooked businessmen, too, who share the blame for corruption in government deals.
“People think the government is corrupt, but who pays those officials? We do—the private sector. So it’s wrong to say that the government is corrupt. It’s really the private sector that’s corrupt and who corrupts the government,” he says.
Honesty and due diligence from the private sector, he believes, is the key to reform the status quo.
“If the private sector stops corrupting the public, we’ll have honest men. So we, private sector must say ‘no’ and stick to that. If the other guy pays, then he wins the bid but when all of us don’t pay, we all win,” he adds.
Accordingly, Philab’s steadfast adherence to moral principles and professional standards has fueled its 55-year voyage as a diversified scientific and research enabler, which continues to raise the bar high in “creating change” in the Philippine society through its products and services, especially in medicine and education.
Founded in 2012 by Navasero and his mother Sylvia—a breast cancer survivor—Philab’s Genomic Institute of Asia (Gina) is the first to successfully sequence the genetic makeup of rice in the country, and is now extending its operations to medical applications.
As the company envisions making the Philippines the “hub for genetic sequencing,” it has started hosting genetic sequencing services in neighboring countries while tests are done in the Philippines.
“Our main goal is to be the genomics BPO of, hopefully, the world or Asia. Since Philippines is the leader in medical transcriptions, call centers and accounting, we’re a perfect resource for genetic sequencing,” Navasero says.
The incidence of breast cancer in the Philippines—which is the highest rate in Asia—as well as the hefty cost of tests which are normally done in other countries, have encouraged Philab to launch its Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) program.
Through NGS, genetic diagnostics, particularly the BRCA 1 and 2 tests that screen patients for breast cancer markers is now done locally—a first in the country.
This innovation offers a speedy process and a 50-percent reduction of cost from an estimated P200,000 overseas to P100,000 locally per cancer test.
“My mother’s breast cancer was detected early on through genomics, and the onset was prevented. I want to share this technology to the country as a way of giving thanks,” he says.
NGS also allows patients to be tested for genes that predispose them to having hereditary, infectious and other diseases. Fortunately, these tests have been available in some hospitals in Metro Manila since last year.
Philab will also be offering other services such as genetic counseling to help patients cope with the outcome of their sequencing results.
In fact, it has recently partnered with the Philippine Lung Center in advancing genetic research and sequencing in the country.
The partnership is focused on providing an integrated and efficient application of genetic research in the field of medicine, which will especially be useful for early cancer detection and for other genetic disorders.
Citing competent scientists and statisticians that the country produces, Navasero sees promising potential for genomics to prosper in the Philippines.
“Genetics require two things: good scientists to run the machine and good statisticians to count the numbers. And we have those skills here in the country,” he says.
Philab’s solidarity in keeping genomics aground, however, runs counter the so-called “scientist diaspora” or the migration of Filipino scientists to the international science and medical industry, which apparently yields more encouraging opportunities and income than locally.
“We would like to reverse that [phenomenon]. We’ve built research centers to help keep our scientists locally. The biggest problem here is not them leaving but the number of PhD holders we have, which is very small compared to the rest of the world. So hopefully, with genetics we will enhance the interest of our young students to get PhDs,” he adds.
Enhancing science education
Apart from providing laboratories as part of its sustained partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd), Philab is set to equip public schools across the country with technology and vocational classrooms and advanced science teaching tools in 2016-2017.
Navasero discloses to the Inquirer that Philab has signed a joint venture agreement last July with China Educational Instrument & Equipment, Corp. (CEIEC), one of the leading companies in designing and building educational structures worldwide. CEIEC, is a corporation fully-owned by the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Education.
Although a partnership has yet to be settled, Philab plans to execute the P6-billion project through DepEd, Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
Given the implementation of the K-to-12 program, the project will provide tech classrooms to 11th and 12th grade levels in public schools and will give all levels in elementary, secondary schools access to science tools and facilities.
A tech classroom is one that will function as a science laboratory for junior and senior high school students. Meanwhile, the vocational school will be a manpower training center that offers production-based skills learning to students that includes operating machines and manufacturing tools provided by Philab.
For years, the company has been the primary provider of laboratory facilities in public schools and state universities across the country, including all campuses of the University of the Philippines.
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