US firms investing over $1 billion in Philippines

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star
US firms investing over $1 billion in Philippines
President Marcos and visiting US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo toast during a luncheon at Malacañang yesterday. Raimondo is leading the US presidential trade and investment mission currently in the country.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Firms that are part of a high-level US trade and investment mission to the Philippines are planning to invest over $1 billion in the country in various areas, including energy and upskilling projects.

At a press conference yesterday, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said these firms are set to announce the investments to be made in priority sectors identified by the Manila government.

“On this trip alone, these companies are announcing over a billion dollars of US investments, including creating educational opportunities for over 30 million Filipinos in the form of digital upskilling, AI (artificial intelligence) upskilling digital training,” Raimondo said.

She added that Microsoft Corp., in particular, is set to partner with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to train over 100,000 Filipino women in AI and cybersecurity.

There will also be an announcement on an electric vehicle education center to train Filipinos for jobs in the fast-growing industry, according to the US government official.

There would also be investments in solar and nuclear projects to support the Philippines’ energy and climate goals.

Also part of the upcoming projects is a new airline route to open up travel and tourism to Cebu.

Raimondo is leading the US Presidential Trade and Investment Mission currently in the country.

She is joined by top executives of GreenFire Energy Inc., Google Asia Pacific, Black & Veatch Corp., Visa Inc., EchoStar/DISH, InnovationForce, United Airlines, United Parcel Service, Boston Consulting Group, KKR, Marquis, Sol-Go, Capital One, Bechtel, Apl.de.Ap Foundation, FedEx, Mastercard, Microsoft Corp., UltraPass ID, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp., President’s Export Council and the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business Council.

Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs Frederick Go said the Philippine government encouraged US firms comprising the mission to participate in the country’s infrastructure projects, as well as to take a closer look at priority sectors such as semiconductors, electronics, food and agriculture production industries and green minerals.

Go added that the Philippine government also brought up during discussions with Raimondo the renewal of the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which expired at the end of 2020.

The Philippines was a beneficiary of the GSP, which allows duty-free entry for exports of certain products to the US.

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual called for the swift implementation of US government support in workforce development as part of the CHIPS Act to facilitate plans to expand its role in the semiconductor industry beyond assembly and packaging.

Manila also sought assistance from the US Department of Commerce on trade issues, like detained apparel exports and shrimp paste shipments, as well as the inability of Philippine electronics companies to bid on US government contracts due to a requirement in the US Trade Agreements Act.

“We are confident that this day’s discussions will result in actionable measures. This mission serves as a platform to align our efforts and capitalize on both our nations’ economic successes. Further, this mission transcends traditional diplomatic missions to propel us toward stronger economic ties and shared prosperity,” Pascual said.

Raimondo said the mission was initiated by US President Joe Biden to see what more can be done to facilitate trade and investment between the two countries.

“So whether that is GSP or working in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, signing MOUs (memorandum of understanding) between our countries or between companies, all of these are things that we need to continue to make happen on our journey of expanding trade and investment between our countries and getting even closer,” Raimondo added.

The US is the Philippines’ third biggest trading partner, with total trade reaching approximately $20 billion.

It is the largest export market for Philippine goods valued at $12 billion, and the fifth largest import market, amounting to almost $8.5 billion.

In the last five years, the US has consistently ranked among the top five sources of foreign direct investments (FDI) in the Philippines.

From January to November last year, the US was the fourth-largest FDI source for the Philippines, with a total exceeding $110 million.

Invitation to Build Better More

President Marcos yesterday invited American firms to take part in his administration’s “Build, Better, More” program during the call of the delegates of the first trade mission of the US, which he described as the Philippines’ “essential strategic trading and investment ally.”

Led by Raimondo, the delegates of the high-level presidential mission are in the Philippines to boost cooperation between Filipino and American companies and enhance ties between the countries.

The visit marks the fulfillment of Biden’s commitment to Marcos during his official visit to Washington in May last year.

Speaking to members of the delegation at Malacañang, Marcos said the Philippines aims to launch 198 high-impact priority infrastructure flagship projects totaling P8.8 trillion or $148 billion under the Build, Better, More program.

The flagship projects, which span physical connectivity, water resources, agriculture, health, digital connectivity and telecommunications and energy, will also lay the groundwork for the Philippines’ goal to be the next logistics hub in Asia, according to the President.

“We eagerly welcome participation by US investors in these transformative initiatives,” he said.

He added that the Philippines offers a “multitude” of advantages for businesses seeking to grow and expand, citing its location at the heart of Southeast Asia which, he noted, offers a strategic location for investors.

Marcos also called on American businesses to invest on developing the Philippines’ energy sector and critical metals exploration and processing, among other areas. — Alexis Romero

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