U.S. Companies Discuss the Philippine Government’s Structural Economic Reform Agenda with Key Government Officials

(Manila) From March 6-7, the US-ASEAN Business Council led a delegation of 23 U.S. companies on its annual business mission to the Philippines. During the mission, the delegation engaged key Philippine Government officials on priority economic reforms and initiatives of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Government efforts to liberalize sectors of the economy to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI), including through the release of a new, shortened Foreign Investment Negative List and proposed amendments to the Public Service Act, were a major theme of the mission. The mission delegation also received an update on the Government’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), including the second package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN 2), its ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure initiative, and its social development initiatives. Specifically, the mission focused on ensuring increased private sector and other stakeholder input in the CTRP; highlighting the interest of U.S. companies to participate in the “Build, Build, Build” initiative; the expansion of that initiative to include critical infrastructure in the energy, telecommunications, and other key sectors; and how U.S. companies can contribute more to the rehabilitation of Marawi and associated relief efforts.

The delegation was co-led by Ambassador Michael W. Michalak, the Council’s Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director, and Mr. Marc Mealy, the Council’s Vice President for Policy. The leadership of the Council’s Philippines Committee was represented by the Committee’s Vice Chairs – Citi, the Coca-Cola Company, Microsoft, Monsanto, and Philip Morris International (PMFTC).

“The size of our delegation and the number of industries represented this year are a testament to the recent robust economic growth that the Philippines has experienced and the strong economic fundamentals that underpin this growth,” said Amb. Michael Michalak. “One of our main goals was to learn more about what the Government is trying to do to sustain this growth by improving the business environment and the ease of doing business. Needless to say, we came away impressed by the concerted efforts of the Government’s economic team to tackle these challenges and make the Philippines a more attractive destination for U.S. FDI. We also wanted to use the business mission to emphasize to the Philippine Government that the U.S. business community still supports free and open trade and will work through whatever architecture or mechanism to do so, whether it be the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or bilateral free trade agreements.”

“One thing that this mission has made clear is that the whole of government’s commitment to sustaining the ‘Build, Build, Build’ initiative represents an economic structural transformative development agenda,” said Marc Mealy. “By closing the Philippines’ infrastructure gap with its ASEAN neighbors to improve the overall business environment, the Philippines is poised to become a more competitive FDI destination. Our delegation was very interested in learning how U.S. companies can better compete for business opportunities in this major initiative and contribute to the Government’s efforts to highlight the potential that abounds in the Philippine market.”

During the mission, the delegation met with senior officials from the Government of the Philippines, including:

  • Mr. Carlos G. Dominguez III, Secretary of Finance;
  • Mr. Ramon M. Lopez, Secretary of Trade and Industry;
  • Mr. Mark Villar, Secretary of Public Works and Highways;
  • Mr. Delfin N. Lorenzana, Secretary of National Defense;
  • Brig. Gen. Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. (ret.), OIC-Secretary/Undersecretary for Special Concerns at the Department of Information and Communications Technology;
  • Dr. Fortunato de la Peña, Secretary of Science and Technology;
  • Mr. Benjamin E. Diokno, Secretary of Budget and Management;
  • Dr. Ernesto M. Pernia, Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning;
  • Mr. Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr., Governor, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
The delegation also held meetings with Rep. Dakila Carlo E. Cua, Chairperson of the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives; Sen. Loren B. Legarda, Chairperson of the Finance Committee in the Senate; Undersecretary Jesus Cristino P. Posadas of the Department of Energy; Mr. Carlos L. Magnaye, Director of the Planning Service at the Department of Agriculture; and Mr. Michael S. Klecheski, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Given the current discussion in the Philippines on the potential move from the existing unitary system of government to a federal one, the delegation also held a joint event with the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the Makati Business Club on the Constitutional changes that would be required and processes that could be enacted to bring about that transition. Mr. Gary Olivar, Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Freedom, was the featured speaker for that event.

Member companies participating in the mission included Citi, the Coca-Cola Company, Microsoft, Monsanto, Philip Morris International (PMFTC), 3M, Archer Daniels Midland (represented by BowerGroupAsia), Booz Allen Hamilton, Caterpillar, Emerson, Expedia, ExxonMobil, FedEx Express, Herbalife Nutrition, HP Inc., KKR, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Qualcomm Incorporated, Texas Instruments, UPS, and Visa.

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For 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.