Companies engage President Aquino on the future of the Philippines

(MANILA) A delegation of leading U.S. companies paid a courtesy call on President Aquino today in Malacanang Palace to kick off the US-ASEAN Business Council's 2011 Business Mission to the Philippines. The mission, the Council's first since President Aquino's election, has arrived in Manila excited by the possibilities offered in a reenergized Philippines under new management. Council members, led by Philippines Committee Chair J.B. Baylon of the Coca-Cola Company, Vice Chair Dennis Wright of Peregrine, and Council President Alexander Feldman, are eager to explore partnerships to help build a strong, dynamic Philippines.

"President Aquino's efforts to rebrand the Philippines, build infrastructure, and combat corruption have led to a surge in business interest," said Council Philippines Chair J.B. Baylon of The Coca-Cola Company. "Our delegation is focused on discussions around increasing bilateral trade and investment flows, and continuing to improve the overall business environment and investment climate here in the Philippines."

In a strong show of government to government support, the delegation was accompanied on their meeting with President Aquino by the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy Leslie Basset and outgoing Philippinne Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia. President Aquino was joined by Secretary of Finance Cesar Purisima.

"The growing economies of the ASEAN nations offer fabulous opportunities for American firms," said U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas, Jr. "I am delighted that these well-respected U.S. companies are visiting Manila to discuss ways to expand business opportunities and thereby create jobs and contribute to economic growth and prosperity in the Philippines and the United States," he added.

"This mission marks a continuation of the Council's dialogue with President Aquino and other Philippine officials over the past six months," said Alexander Feldman, President of the US-ASEAN Business Council. "A number of our member companies have announced new or expanded investments in the Philippines recently, and we are eager to continue examining opportunities in infrastructure, energy, ICT, and other sectors created by the PPP process."

The mission delegates also met with Ambassador Robert Orr, U.S. Executive Director of the Asia Development Bank, and members of Sycip, Gorres, Velayo & Co and the Asian Institute of Management. The mission will continue on Thursday with meetings with the Secretary of Energy the Hon. Jose Rene Amendras, Secretary of Health the Hon. Enrique Ona, and members of Amcham and the Makati Business Club.

The mission will conclude on Friday with a trip to the Clark Freeport Zones, where Council members will hold discussions with Benny Ricafort, President and CEO of Clark Development Corp, Armand Areza, Administrator and CEO of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, and Chichos Luciano, President and CEO of the Clark International Airport Corp.

"The Philippines is one of the best environment in Southeast Asia for investment, and the Clark Freeport Zone is an area every company should be aware of," said Dennis Wright of Peregrine. "The area around Clark reminds me of Dulles or Suvarnabhumi 25 years ago. The existing infrastructure in this region puts it in a tremendously strong position to create a dynamic trading hub."

The Business Mission was preceded by an ICT-focused mission led by Council ICT Committee Chair Anjan Ghosh of Intel. The ICT mission carried strong support for harnessing ICT in education, for the creation of a department of ICT, and for creating the right policy environment for ICT investment the Philippines to build a digital structure for the future. The ICT mission met with the Department of Education, Commissioners Monchito Ibrahim and Frank Perez of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology, the National Telecommunications Commission, Director General Ricardo Blancaflor of the Intellectual Property Office, Secretary of Labor Rosalinda Baldoz.The ICT Mission also had excellent lunch discussion with Congressman Sigfrido Tinga, Chair of the House Committee on ICT and Congressman Albert Garcia, Chair of the House Committee on Trade & Industry.

Council members participating in the two missions included The Coca-Cola Company, Peregrine, Intel, Caterpillar, Cisco, FedEx Express, Ford, GE, Google, Hewlett Packard, GlaxoSmithKline, Jhpiego, Microsoft, Monsanto, P&G, Qualcomm, Time Warner, and Unisys.

To request more information or to connect with the delegation during the remainder of their visit in Manila, please contact Anthony Nelson at anelson@usasean.org.

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For over 35 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's membership, more than 160 companies, generate over $6 trillion in revenue and employ more than 13 million people globally. Members include the largest US companies conducting business in ASEAN, and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for over 100 years. The Council has offices in: Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore.