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Opinion

Springtime in Washington: A lot of hope for the future

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

There is so much activity in Washington, DC at the start of the spring season, especially with the political situation getting warmer as the US presidential election draws near. The ongoing legal case against former president Donald Trump and the impeachment trial of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that was swiftly dismissed are just some of the issues that underscore the widening political divide between Republicans and Democrats.

While people may think Washington, DC is defined by pure politics, the reality is there are so many events and activities that are happening, among them the annual International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) spring meetings that bring together finance ministers, central bankers, private sector executives, academics and civil society executives to tackle poverty eradication, climate change, debt, economic recovery and other global economic concerns.

Together with the Department of Finance and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, our Economic Team at the Philippine embassy in Washington co-organized the “Philippine Dialogue,” which is an expanded version of the Philippine Economic Briefing that we have been doing for the past several years.

The dialogue gave the Philippine economic managers led by Finance Secretary Ralph Recto with National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman and BSP Deputy Governor Francisco Dakila the opportunity to engage in more deep and productive conversations with American investors, with the end goal of strengthening our trade and investment ties and deepening public-private sector collaboration.

As I underscored during my welcome remarks, it has been nearly two years since President Marcos Jr. tasked his economic managers – with the full support of the Philippine Congress – to create an economic landscape that is open, transparent, connected, inclusive and progressive – and the reforms that have been put in place and those that are still forthcoming make the Philippines an even more attractive investment destination than ever.

Secretary Recto noted the common consensus among economists that the Philippines is set to lead Asian growth over the next decade, outlining the country’s promising growth trajectory which he attributed to “strong consumer spending, which continues to account for more than 70 percent of the economy.”

The dialogue was very successful, and one particular speaker that inspired everyone in the briefing was Citigroup vice chairman of Banking, Capital Markets and Advisory Jay Collins who said, “Now is the best time to invest in the Philippines because so much is going right.”

Jay Collins has over three decades of leadership experience in international finance and global policy, and is convinced that on “the rating of A, it’s clear to Citi… that the Philippines is on that pathway.”

Describing the country’s growth story as “absolutely extraordinary,” he told everyone present that they “just need to look across to the continent to see the plummeting of growth in China… and yet, you see the exact opposite in this divergent, extraordinary growth paradigm in the Philippines.”

The Citi executive praised the leadership of President Bongbong Marcos. “For those of you who have seen year in and year out the quality of the Cabinet and leadership in the Philippines, again, this Cabinet just screams leadership,” he stated, sharing that those who saw and heard the President during the trilateral summit between the US, the Philippines and Japan noted his magnanimous leadership style, grace and charisma.

We received so much feedback globally and thousands of congratulatory messages at the inclusion of President Marcos in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for 2024 under the “Leaders” category.

“Bongbong has stood steadfast against Chinese aggression in the disputed South China Sea and bolstered his nation’s alliance with the US in the face of ‘rising tensions in our region and the world,’ as he said last May,” the short Time Magazine profile went, noting that “despite geopolitical tensions and the hurdles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Marcos has elevated the Philippines on the world stage and contributed to regional stability, notably in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Indeed, the President has undoubtedly put the Philippines on centerstage, especially with the high profile and extremely successful trilateral summit at the White House with US President Joe Biden, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and PBBM.

In the most recent online commentary by Greg Poling and Erin Murphy published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, they highlighted the strategic imperative of economic security, noting that Japan and the US are showing their deep and abiding commitment by investing in the Philippines’ infrastructure, digital economy and other areas – at the same time proving that “partnering with Tokyo and Washington can deliver public goods to Filipinos and economic growth for the nation” – allowing President Marcos to “counter those domestic critics who argue that by standing up to China he is sacrificing the potential economic benefits that Beijing could provide.”

Speaker Martin Romualdez, who has never missed a presidential trip, stayed behind after the trilateral summit and was our special guest during the Philippine economic briefing. The Philippine embassy arranged for him several meetings with US legislators that included Senator Bill Hagerty of Tennessee who, on the eve of the trilateral summit, introduced a bipartisan bill to provide $2.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing to the Philippines for the next five years.

Upon the initiative of Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro in requesting US support for the AFP modernization program, Senator Hagerty sponsored the bill to help the military modernization efforts of the Philippines. Speaker Romualdez thanked the good senator for this initiative.

Hope indeed springs eternal, and no doubt springtime in Washington gives us a lot of hope for the future.

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Email: [email protected]

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