Event Report

The Legal 500 was delighted to be back in Manila, hosting the eagerly anticipated GC Summit Philippines 2024 at the Grand Hyatt Manila’s amazing ballroom. Surpassing last year’s attendance figures, the event brought together more than 260 in-house lawyers, 10 partner firms, and 35 esteemed speakers, showcasing the highest level of legal expertise in the country. Once again, this full-day conference solidified its status as the premier legal conference in the Philippines, demonstrating its unmatched scale and influence in the legal community.

The event commenced with an introduction by Francisco Castro, The Legal 500’s editorial lead. Subsequently, Maria Christina J. Macasaet-Acaban, partner at Quisumbing Torres, graced the stage with her insights, followed by our keynote speaker, Lirene C. Mora, legal director at International Container Terminal Service, Inc. (ICTSI), who further enriched the audience with her perspective and setting the tone for what would become an incredible day tackling the full breadth of challenges in-house lawyers face in the Philippines.

The event’s agenda unfolded with a deep dive into the complexities of commercial arbitration in the Philippines. Speakers from ACCRALAW, including Jose Martin R. Tensuan, Arnold M. Corporal, Antonio Eduardo S. Nachura, Jr., and Thomas Andrew T. Yuzon, shed light on the benefits, challenges, and trends in this crucial legal arena.

The subsequent session, brought by Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & de los Angeles, with esteemed guest speakers Roel Refran from the Philippines Stock Exchange, Ricardo M. Pilares III, form Metro Pacific Investments Corporation and Carina Sumilong Bayon, from Pepsi, delved into the intricacies of delisting, addressing its advantages, drawbacks, and tax implications. Expert insights provided attendees with valuable guidance on navigating the complex landscape of delisting processes in the Philippine business environment.

Villaraza & Angangco, represented by its partner Rashel Ann C. Pomoy, who made an insightful and meaningful presentation on mental health in the workplace, discussing the legal framework surrounding it, highlighting how mental health conditions are recognised as disabilities under these laws, outlining employers’ obligations towards employees with diagnosed mental health issues. Additionally, the process for separating an employee with a persistent mental health condition after exhausting reasonable accommodations was discussion.

In the last session of the morning, Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra partner’s Mark Gorriceta and Kristine Torres, along with their esteemed guests, Miscen Desiderio-Dime, Accenture, Geossiel A. Cotoco, UnionDigital and Robert Josef De Guzman, Coins.ph, delved into the evolving roles of legal professionals in the tech and fintech sectors. Speakers discussed the impacts of rapid technological advancements and regulatory changes on legal practices, emphasising the shift from traditional advising to strategic partnership in innovation and risk management. Points of discussion included integrating legal expertise with emerging technologies like AI and blockchain, global compliance challenges, and ethical considerations. The session underscored the importance of continuous learning and interdisciplinary collaboration for legal professionals to navigate

complex terrains and shape the future of the legal industry within technology-driven environments.

Just before lunch break, our media partner the Inquirer, conducted a prize drawing, selecting one lucky attendee at random to receive a coveted prize provided by the Philippines’ premier newspaper.

The afternoon part of the conference couldn’t have had a better start, has Cruz, Marcelo & Tenefrancia held a session discussing arbitration issues, sharing practical insights from legal professionals collaborating with stakeholders. The conversation included cost-effective collaboration between in-house counsel and external firms, enhancing efficiency in output and expenses, and anticipating shifts in the business and legal landscape due to technological advancements. Expert speakers provided best practices and innovative approaches for greater efficiency while ensuring quality and compliance in all arbitration stages.

The first fireside chat of the afternoon was put together by international law firm Milbank, where Hong Kong office’s partners James Grandolfo and Paul Pery were interviewed by The Legal 500’s Francisco Castro and aimed at exploring strategies and recommendations to invigorate the Philippine IPO market, attracting foreign investors and fostering economic growth. Despite prevailing global economic uncertainties such as rising interest rates and apprehensions of a looming recession, the two experts expressed cautious optimism regarding the country’s stance on the matter. They noted a slightly more favourable outlook compared to the previous year, attributing it to the government’s proactive measures aimed at addressing the situation. Despite the challenges, there was a sense of guarded confidence in the efforts undertaken to enhance the country’s economic resilience amidst the prevailing global economic landscape.

In the brief session that followed, 917Ventures’ head of legal, Jill Genio, presented on the integration of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) into legal practice. She introduced Amicus, the latest innovation aimed at enhancing efficiency and productivity among Filipino lawyers. Amicus utilises AI to streamline various legal tasks, empowering legal professionals to accomplish their work more effectively. Genio emphasised the importance of leveraging technology to optimise legal processes, highlighting Amicus as a transformative tool for the legal community in the Philippines. The session underscored the role of technology in driving innovation and efficiency within the legal sector, offering insights into the evolving landscape of legal practice.

For our second fireside chat of the day, Wee Swee Teow, by the hands of its partner Arvin Lee and esteemed guest speakers Amabelle Asuncion, Manila Water and Mona Katigbak, GE Vernoma, organised a very informal and friendly discussion on the dynamic relationship between in-house counsel and external legal advisors in navigating complex cross-border transactions and disputes. The session explored best practices, challenges, and innovative approaches to optimise outcomes and mitigate risks in the increasingly globalised legal landscape, providing attendees with actionable strategies for success.

A highlight of the summit was the comprehensive analysis of competition law enforcement updates, digital market issues, and the interplay with ESG considerations, led by Quisumbing Torres. Expert panellists, Alain Charles J. Veloso and Micahel Macapagal from Quisumbing Torres, Takahiro Kenjie Aman from GCash and Ferdinand

M. Negre from The Philippine Competition Commission, centred their discussion on emerging regulatory frameworks, challenges in digital market enforcement, and the imperative of aligning competition policies with sustainability goals. The session highlighted the need for proactive strategies to address competition issues in the digital era while advancing ESG objectives. Attendees gained critical insights into navigating regulatory complexities, fostering fair competition, and promoting responsible business practices in the evolving legal landscape. The session pointed at the pivotal role of collaboration and innovation in shaping a competitive, inclusive, and sustainable business environment, concluding with an appeal to attendees to create an in-house competition task force.

The last session of the day was led SPCMB, who invited Michael Arthur R. Camiña from The City of Makati to make a presentation on business and local government. In this session, attendees learned about the relationship between private businesses and local government units (LGUs) in the Philippines. The discussion focused on LGU structure and creation, highlighting their legal powers as both a subdivision of the national government and a corporate entity serving their territory’s residents.

The event concluded with closing remarks by Kristian Nico Calugay Acosta, general counsel at GUESS Group, expressing gratitude to participants for their invaluable contributions and highlighting the importance of celebrating the Philippine legal community and how events like the GC Summit series are fundamental to nurturing these relationships within that group.

In summary, the GC Summit Philippines 2024 served as a catalyst for fostering legal excellence, promoting business innovation, and forging meaningful connections within the legal and corporate community. Following the event’s impressive conclusion, the dialogue continued into a cocktail reception. Here, lingering questions were addressed, and attendees seized the opportunity to reconnect with their peers.

The overwhelmingly positive reception from the legal community at the GC Summit Philippines 2024, marked by robust attendance and favourable feedback on the topics covered, ensures The Legal 500’s swift return. Already committed to planning additional events in the country, The Legal 500 anticipates building on this success and further fostering engagement within the legal fraternity.

Before the end of the year, The Legal 500 will return to the Philippines for the release of its annual GC Powerlist publication, highlighting the top in-house lawyers in the country, as well as for its GC Corporate and Compliance Forum, being held on September 24th.

We look forward to our return and to the ongoing cultivation of our strong ties with the in-house legal community in the Philippines.

In association with...