All the President’s (business) Men

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Anyone who’s anyone in the business community was there. Some rode their own jets; others took commercial flights while some managed to join President Marcos’ chartered flight.

Whichever way they traveled, they made it to New York as they joined Marcos in his first ever visit to the United States as the country’s 17th president.

The Philippine business delegation, indeed, was one of the biggest in the country’s history of presidential trips. They were all there, dressed to the nines; the men were dapper in their sleek suits and elegant ties, all trailing the President in his meetings or having their own meetings as well.

That businessmen and tycoons accompany a president to his or her trips abroad is nothing new of course.

Like Marcos Sr.

But it was President Marcos’ father, Marcos Sr. who started the big businessmen delegations during presidential trips.

“This goes all the way back to the time of Ferdinand Marcos. I still remember when he brought 45 businessmen to China in 1975 when he established relations,” said one veteran businessman.

The son perhaps had this in mind and would follow his father’s practice. Thus, Marcos Jr. had some 30 businessmen in his delegation to New York.

But what was particularly peculiar this time around was that many of the businessmen really wanted to join.

I heard many were scrambling to have their names included in the list of delegates even up to the last minute.

Marcos’ circle

This, of course, isn’t surprising considering that they are still navigating their way to Marcos’ circle. After all, some of this administration’s early decisions, executive orders, and appointees or almost appointees would have an impact – or already had an impact – on their businesses, one way or another.

It is perhaps one of the reasons many of them wanted it really known that they were there as part of the delegation, in stark contrast to the usual ways of most businessmen who usually prefer moving below the radar.

Junkets, as most junkets go, are always costly and there will always be something to be said about the costs of such trips, especially at a time when the Philippines is not exactly in the best shape after two years of a debilitating pandemic.

But I will wait and see with hope and optimism how our economy will benefit from Marcos’ recent visit to New York.

As an economic journalist, I’ve covered a Philippine business delegation abroad during President Duterte’s visit to Moscow and I’ve seen how some of the business meetings actually translated to actual deals, which brought jobs to Filipinos. That was, of course, years ago and a world away from the Russia that we know now, but that’s another story.

I do hope that the presence of tycoons in the US during this recent trip will indeed translate to new and bigger investments for the country, although we always need to remind ourselves that there should always be a balance on what we can get and what we can give to foreign investors.

Here are some updates from the business delegates themselves, which hopefully, will indeed translate to more jobs for Filipinos.

Notes from the tycoons

From Ayala Corp. chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who was part of the recently held Philippine Economic Briefing in New York:

“For my part, I remain optimistic with regards to the many new and exciting developments in our economic system. The government is looking at taking infrastructure (spending) up to five percent of GDP growth, creating tremendous impetus to many externalities  (like) creating jobs in our tourism sector and the digitalization of our economy. These are tremendous opportunities for investors. Our job (in the private sector) is to support the growth agenda of our government in whatever way we can.”

Sabin Aboitiz, president and CEO of the Aboitiz Group, was the first to update us of what happened in New York and at the end of the trip, he said it was “mission accomplished.”

“PBBM, together with some of his Cabinet members and the Philippine business delegation, met with a number of business leaders from different US companies that committed to be a part of the Philippines’ development and economic growth. Both the US and the Philippines will be working together in addressing some of the country’s key economic challenges, particularly  climate change, food security, and energy security, just to name a few,” said Sabin, who is also the convenor of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC).

Kevin Tan, CEO of the Tan-led Alliance Global Group Inc., posted his own update:

“I am very privileged and honored to have joined His Excellency, President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. and members of his Cabinet at the round-table discussion with the top leaders of some of the biggest global IT-BPO companies that are present in the Philippines. The meeting with IT-BPO executives was among the highlights of the President’s working visit to New York where he successfully re-introduced the Philippines to investors in the United States.

“In that same meeting, where I had the opportunity of being the sole developer to represent the country, the President renewed his administration’s support to the  IT-BPO industry, which in turn, committed one million more jobs for Filipinos by 2028,” Kevin added.

Now, we’ll just have to wait and see how and when these discussions will actually benefit the country.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales.Column archives at eyesgonzales.com



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