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Opinion

White House tripartite meeting promises a bright future

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez - The Philippine Star

The two-day trip of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to Washington, DC was well worth it because of its historic impact in advancing efforts to promote a peaceful, open, stable and rules-based Indo-Pacific region that can help empower nations to economically grow and flourish.

There is no question the President is exhausted from the many important trips he has taken, but we both agreed this trip was definitely significant and absolutely consequential because it will define the future not only of the Philippines but countries in our region as well.

As the President succinctly put it, the tripartite meeting at the White House with President Biden and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is “just a beginning” as “the complex challenges of our time require concerted efforts on everyone’s part, a dedication to a common purpose and an unwavering commitment to the rules-based international order.”

He also described the partnership among the three nations as something that is “borne not out of convenience nor of expediency, but as a natural progression of deepening relations and robust cooperation… linked by a profound respect for democracy, good governance and the rule of law.”

While the meeting may just be “a beginning,” it is one that “looks ahead” – as the partners seek to “identify ways of growing” their respective economies and making them more resilient, climate proofing cities and societies, sustaining development progress and forging a peaceful world for the next generation, the President said.

The summit, President Marcos noted, provides “an opportunity to define the future we want, and how we intend to achieve it, together.”

The Joint Vision Statement by the three leaders underscored that as equal partners and trusted friends, they share fundamental values of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law – believing that by working together, they can advance the security and prosperity not only of their respective nations but the Indo-Pacific and the world.

“Our historic summit today is the culmination of decades of partnership and builds on the recent momentum of our governments’ trilateral efforts,” the statement went, outlining the goals to promote inclusive economic growth and resilience even as they expressed concern and strong opposition to “economic coercion,” underscoring the need for close coordination to deal with such coercion.

One of the key takeaways during the summit was the Luzon economic corridor that would support connectivity between Subic Bay, Clark, Manila and Batangas, with the three nations committed to accelerating coordinated investments in high impact infrastructure projects that include rail, ports modernization, clean energy and semiconductor supply chains and deployments, agribusiness and civilian port upgrades at Subic Bay.

We were pleased to note that the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is planning to put up a regional office in the Philippines to facilitate further investments across the country. I remember mentioning this possibility as early as May 2021 when the Philippine embassy in Washington arranged a virtual forum together with the DFC and the US Trade and Development Agency, which drew a lot of interest from pharmaceutical companies looking at vaccine manufacturing and distribution in the Philippines.

Prior to the tripartite summit, I joined the President at the Oval Office where he met President Biden for a bilateral meeting that was candid and straightforward, with both leaders affirming their commitment to make the relationship even deeper, advancing mutual interests, strengthening economic ties and elevating the defense and security alliance between the two nations.

The atmosphere was very warm, friendly and cordial, and we were pleased to hear President Biden’s reassurance that the bilateral relationship with the Philippines remains “an absolute priority” of the United States and that they will continue to support the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

At a press briefing we conducted in the Philippine embassy in Washington, we mentioned that in the next five to 10 years, we are looking at an estimated $100 billion in investments from Japan and the United States, with the administration’s economic managers working hard to open up areas for potential investments such as energy, which is of course very important in sustaining growth and development, not to mention the fact that energy security is a priority of the government, obviously because our energy requirements in the next two years or so will increase.

The $100 billion is actually a modest estimate considering that the semiconductor industry alone is an $80-billion business in Southeast Asia, and if we get even just 10 to 20 percent of that pie, that’s an additional $8 to $16 billion in investments.

The semiconductor industry is going to be the wave of the future, and we’re very pleased that the United States has included the Philippines as one of the seven countries it trusts to partner with for its goal to diversify their semiconductor supply chain under the CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) Act.

We’re also looking at forging a bilateral free trade agreement with the US on cyberspace and digital technology, among others. As I told members of the media, the US really has a high level of interest in making the Philippines a major investment hub for American companies.

Looking out my window from the Philippine embassy in Washington, DC, spring is now upon us but it’s cloudy. Nonetheless, the future looks bright for the Philippines because as they say – for every cloud, there is always a silver lining, and the very successful tripartite meeting is one such silver lining. I’m confident that during President Marcos’ term, the Philippines will emerge as a stronger and more prosperous nation.

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Email: [email protected]

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