Notes from the June 26/27 Philippines Committee Quarterly Call featuring H.E. Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, Ambassador of the Philippines to the US and 2019 Philippines Business Mission

Notes from the June 26/27 Philippines Committee Quarterly Call featuring H.E. Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, Ambassador of the Philippines to the US and 2019 Philippines Business Mission | July 1, 2019

Authors: Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez
September 16-18, 2019: Philippines Business Mission
Notes from June 26/27, 2019 Philippines Committee Quarterly Call
  1. Introduction of Philippine Embassy economic team joining the call by Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez:
  • Minister JV Chan-Gonzaga, head of economic section
  • Mr. Raymond Batac, Trade Attaché
  • Dr. Joy Javelosa, Agriculture Attaché
  • Mylo Fausto, economic section
  1. Welcome and Introduction of Guest Speaker by Ambassador Michael Michalak (ret.)
  • Good evening Washington, good morning Manila and Singapore. Thank you for joining us. The Council recently celebrated its 35th year anniversary last June 19 in Washington DC. We would like to thank our member companies and staff who have contributed to the Council’s growth following closely ASEAN’s positive political and economic trajectory in the last 3 decades.
  • The Philippines recently celebrated its 121 years of independence last June 12 and we congratulate one of ASEAN’s founding members and America’s treaty ally in the region. We have a special guest speaker during our Committee Call today but before I introduce him, allow me to first acknowledge the Philippines Committee leadership.
  • Acknowledge our Philippines Committee leadership.
      1. Chair Fluor (Philip Vaughn could not join but sends his regards.)
      2. Co-chair 3M who will give short welcome
      3. Vice Chair Citi
      4. Vice Chair Coca-cola
      5. Vice Chair Microsoft
      6. Vice Chair Philip Morris International
  • Our guest speaker, Ambassador Romualdez, was appointed Philippine Ambassador to the US last July 2017. He has since upheld and promoted Philippine interests in Washington DC engaging both the US government and the Filipino-American community. He has extensive experience as a media practitioner and business executive and was a member of several Philippine business delegations visiting the United States, China, Japan and New Zealand from 1989 to 2012. His columns in the Philippine Star has wide readership in the Philippines and abroad.
  • We thank the Ambassador for being a friend of the Council and for joining this call ahead of our Philippine business mission on September 16-18, it is after all late in the evening in DC. He will share his views on Philippine-US relations and updates on initiatives, policies, and programs that promote greater bilateral trade and investment.
  1. Short remarks by His Excellency Jose Manuel G. Romualdez
  • The Philippine economy grew a little slower due to the impasse and the budget approval of Philippine Congress, which resulted in underspending equivalent to about 80 to 90 billion in disbursements for the first quarter of 2019. Economic managers estimated growth could have been between 6.6 to 7.2% in the first quarter. (Q1 2019 growth was reported at 5.6%.) We adjusted the GDP growth target for the year from the original 7.8% to about 6.7% range.
  • Here in the United States, we've had a number of Economic Forums. In fact, last April we had very successful one headed by Secretary Dominguez where we had 150 participants and there seems to be pretty good interest in the Philippines.
  • Competitiveness ranking of the Philippines has increased. The country is expected to achieve upper middle income economy status in the near future.
  • The Philippines recently adopted Vision 2040 (Ambisyon Natin 2040). This mission fuels the government's resolve to sustain the path, through inclusive growth, a high trust secure resilience society and a globally competitive, knowledge economy.
  • Described as a country undergoing tremendous changes and this is the kind of a message that we keep giving to many of our friends here in the United States, specifically here in Washington, DC. This aspiration for the authentic changes reflected in a program of government that is focused results driven - what matters to each and every Filipino. It's about ensuring that the Philippine government provides its citizens access to basic needs. These priorities are reflected in our national budget which broad increases in free education and state universities and colleges, universal health care, and infrastructure development.
  • We're also modernizing and building the capacity of our country's law enforcement and defense agencies to ensure the Philippines could combat domestic and international threats such as terrorism, human and drug trafficking, and cyber-crime. We are working very closely with United States, specifically with the Pentagon and coming up with programs to upgrade. In fact, we just signed a contract to purchase 16 Black Hawk helicopters to help our air force.
  • We are also in the process of upgrading our maritime security. We are just taking delivery of two frigates from South Korea and we will continue to purchase more of the hardware and equipment, not only from the United States.
  • US relationship centers not just on economy but also security. The backbone of our alliance is the Mutual Defense Treaty, which remains the defining hallmark of our cooperation, as it has for many decades. Our alliance defines deep mutual respect we have for each other and we would like to keep our relationship constant even in a world in flux.
  • We certainly would like to welcome more American businesses coming into the Philippines.
  1. Q&A moderated by SVP Marc Mealy
  • Status US-Philippines FTA? still waiting for US congress to ratify USMCA.
  • Philippine priorities during 34th ASEAN summit (June 20-23, 2019)? South China Sea Code of Conduct, US-China trade war, RCEP conclusion.
  • Legislative priorities to increase foreign participation? It appears federalism proposals are shaky, focus is shifting towards fast-tracking economic provisions. There will be another economic briefing on July 1st.
  • Any more prospects transactions like defense procurement? expedited procurement? Yes 45-75 billion but not all are sourced from the US. Some from Israel, Japan.
  • Boracay island closure and other tourism projects? Other islands like Bohol becoming popular and land prices have gone up. Tourism will be focused on infrastructure spending. The government is connecting the islands north to south through transport connections in eastern and western Philippines.
  1. Updates (c/o Maxie)
  1. Innovation Series May 31-June 1

The first of our innovation talk series was held at the end of May done in partnership with the Philippines semiconductor and electronics industry. We formed part of the industry day plenary conference lineup and which had a sub theme transforming the electronics manufacturing landscape to accelerate national progress. The section basically featured upcoming technologies that could impact future electronic sector needs. We were really pleased to be able to feature our council members HP who presented 3D printing and SAS who discussed the use of data for business intelligence. The audience numbered around 270 persons.

  1. General Membership meeting on June 13

We had invited Department of Finance assistant secretary Tony Lambino building on Philippine government event in DC and making more connections in DOF. Important to inform DOF extend of American investments in the Philippines.

  1. Planning 2019 Philippines Business Mission on September 16-18, 2019
  • Introduced business mission themes, schedule including optional day in Clark, and meeting requests. Proposed themes:
  1. Greater US company participation in policy exchange supporting flagship programs under the 10-Point Economic Agenda of the Duterte Administration and driving innovation to achieve sustainability and inclusive growth goals
  2. Promote open and free trade and address investment barriers through domestic reform and International Trade Policy and FTA negotiations
  3. Foster stronger US-Philippines relationship
  4. Leverage collaboration with the Asian Development Bank
  • Some members requested meetings with the Department of Labor & Employment, Department of Science & Technology – innovation, and focus on Department of Health – universal health care, service delivery network, CSR focus
  • Possible Mindanao focus (meeting with Mindanao Development Authority)
  • Status of Joint Cybersecurity Working Group through US embassy
  • Asian Development Bank focus – development finance, procurement opportunities.
  • The Council will have separate member calls to get recommendations.