(James Borton, Washington Times Nov.1998)
At the hub of Filipino business activities in the United States is the Federation of Philippine American Chambers of Commerce Inc., an organization established in response to a perceived need to mobilize Philippine business communities in the U.S.
Heading the Federation as President is Berkeley-based Yolanda Ortega Stern, a graceful and striking woman from beautiful Zamboanga City in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. "I am proud of our record of achievements and close working relationship with the Philippines," remarked Mrs. Stern at a recent breakfast meeting in Manila.
The first large gathering of Filipino business leaders in the US took place in 1974 at a Unity Conference held in Anaheim, California, where a resolution was passed to organize nationwide. The resolution galvanized support and subsequent membership from Filipino American business, a movement spearheaded by California, a major population center for Filipinos in the US. Out of this momentum, the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco was incorporated in 1974.
Much later, a loose coalition of Filipino American business organizations elected officers and met regularly to work towards further unification. In November 1995, this organization was formally incorporated as the California Coalition of Chambers of Commerce, Inc. and held its first Business Conference, with the Philippine Consular Corps in attendance.
The organization's main agenda was to organize itself into a federation through the support and encouragement of the Office of the President of the Philippines in cooperation with the Consul Corps, the DTI and the BOI.
Today, the Federation is successfully united and headquartered in California and boasts a national network with 42 chapters and over 5,000 companies. Mrs. Stern is pleased with the relationship it has forged between private and public sector entities in the U.S. and in the Philippines. The federation this year signed major memorandums of Agreement between US-SBA and in the Philippines with TESDA; PCCI; PACCI; Philexport; ECOP; PTA; CFO; and NYC.
An honorary ambassador of California, Mrs. Stern has been appointed Honorary Investment and Trade representative by DTI as well as representative of PCCI. With over 30 years of experience in internatonal trade and civic works, Mrs. Stern is at her best at bridging coalitions for mutual benefits.
"We are a contributing force to American society." says Mrs. Stern. "We continue to lay our foundations brick by brick as we invite the U.S. corporations to join hands with us as lay ambassadors and facilitators of economic goodwill between the United States and the Philippines."