If there’s one thing the recent working visit of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the United States managed to achieve, it was to revitalize Philippine-American economic relations and to bring it to a new and higher level in the years ahead.
Marcos underscored the importance of the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the US, declaring that he could not see a future for the Philippines without the US as its partner.
In his remarks at the New York Stock Exchange on September 19, Marcos pointed out that since American corporations are among the drivers of our economy, the country has adjusted its ways of doing business to conform to standards set by the US government and business enterprises. This, he said, will give both countries “great opportunities in the future.”
To attract more American investments, he cited the country’s sound macroeconomic fundamentals as indicated by the projected GDP growth, improved employment situation, accelerated manufacturing activity and double-digit growth of trade.
The government has enacted policies to further liberalize the economy and welcome more foreign investments.
These include legislation to lower corporate income tax rates and rationalize fiscal incentives. The reduced minimum paid-up capital requirements for foreign retailers and foreign startups bringing in advanced new technology is another incentive.
The Philippines now also allows full foreign ownership of companies providing public services, such as telecommunications, shipping, air carriers, railways, subways, airports, and toll roads.
Marcos said the Philippines now offers investment opportunities to American businesses in areas such as information technology and business process management, medical products and devices, electric vehicles and batteries, agribusiness, and telecommunications infrastructure and services.
The Philippine economy has returned to its path toward upper-middle-income country status, which he said is achievable within the next few years.
In addition, the country has maintained its investment grade credit ratings and is currently gearing up for “A” territory credit ratings in the medium term.
During his visit, Marcos also met with American firms related to energy and defense.
He first met with NuScale Power, which designs and markets small modular reactors, then with Wastefuel, a California-based next-generation waste-to-fuels firm.
Later, he also held talks with Boeing, among the largest global aerospace manufacturers and top defense contractors worldwide.
Marcos noted that the United States has been among the country’s steady partners in its transformation into one of the most promising emerging markets in Asia. For that, he said, “we are truly grateful.”
The question now is: Can we expect more American investments in the years ahead? We certainly hope so.
But it appears that, as of now, American investors are taking a wait-and-see attitude as we did not read reports of investment pledges by specific US business during the Marcos visit.
US Peace Corps returning to PH
With economic ties with the US on the upswing, can people-to-people exchanges and humanitarian assistance be far behind?
Not at all.
In fact, the two aspects of bilateral relations are likely to heighten with the recent announcement that the US Peace Corps is returning to the country in January next year.
The US government pulled out over 100 American volunteers in March 2020 shortly before the Duterte administration imposed the Luzon-wide lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Dr. Lyn Cheevers, the Peace Corps director for programming and training, 60 Peace Corps volunteers would arrive in the country at the beginning of 2023.
Their presence here would be coordinated with the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency, an attached unit of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
The Peace Corps was established back in 1960 by then US President John F. Kennedy. Its members render volunteer work in various places, its mission of service high, by living and working in the developing countries.
Prior to the Peace Corps withdrawal in March 2020, it had established the largest foreign volunteer presence in the country with 120 volunteers deployed in various locations.
Volunteers who participate in the Peace Corps’ regular programs, such as teaching or helping build service infrastructure like water pumps in remote villages, normally serve for two years, he added. But there are also specialists who serve for six months to a maximum of one year.
The Peace Corps wants the incoming volunteers to form small clusters and be assigned in remote areas near health facilities.
Because of the health crisis and the country being vulnerable to calamities, the organization would “focus on supporting economic livelihood and recovery from the pandemic.”
Many Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines have been recognized for having a long-term impact on their host communities through the development projects they have initiated.
Together with volunteers particularly from other developed nations in Europe, they are helping uplift the quality of life of Filipinos in the countryside.
We should welcome their presence here.