US execs impressed by PH’s anti-corruption efforts but…

Aya Lowe
US business man delegation visits the Philippines to discuss investment and trade opportunities

CLOSER TIES? Former American ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia, local business magnate Manuel V. Pangilinan and Ambassador John F. Maisto discuss the results of a U.S. business delegation in the Philippines during a press conference at Tower Club in Makati on Thursday, January 24. Photo by Katherine Visconti.

MANILA, Philippines – Anti-corruption efforts and economic reforms in the Philippines have impressed visiting US business executives, but other lingering issues have concerned them. 

Citing how corruption issues hounding the country have pulled back investors in the past, United States-Philippines Society (USPS) president John Maisto told a press conference on January 24 that the Aquino government’s sustained battle against wrongdoings have been inspiring investor confidence. 

“The biggest mention [of why they are considering the Philippines positively] is the fight against corruption,” Maiso said. “President and members of the Cabinet were vey clear in their basic message of…fighting corruption within institutions. [It] was a very powerful one.”

“Members of the US delegation who met with President Aquino yesterday (January 23) say they were impressed with reforms and economic inroads made so far,” USPS co-chair Manuel V. Pangilinan added.

Members of the newly formed USPS, which includes business heads from Citigroup, Chevron, Coca Cola, General Electric, JP Morgan Chase and Procter & Gamble, are in Manila from January 23 to 25 to scout for investment and trade opportunities in the Philippines.

Other investment deterrents brought up during the delegations’ several meetings in Manila include high energy costs and the lack of adequate infrastructure, especially for the growing tourism sector.

“Certain areas, such as tourism, has tremendous opportunities. However, there is inadequate infrastructure to meet the demand,” said Jose Cuisia, Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States of America.

Trans-Pacific Partnership 

As part of the visit, the delegation met with President Aquino before he left for Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

Cuisia said Aquino talked about the reforms in terms of government, revenue, education and healthcare. Present in the Malacañang meeting were Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario.

Also discussed was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, which is expected to further liberalize trade in the Asia-Pacific region. The TPP is considered as part of Washington’s strategies to ensure the US’s continuing involvement in the region amid increasing Chinese dominance.

The Philippines has previously expressed reservations in joining the TPP deal.

“We discussed how the conditions are ripe for expanding the Philippine economic trade investment relationship. He pledged continuing support for our effort,” said John Negroponte, co-chair of the USPS and former US ambassador to the Philippines.

Following their series of meetings, the USPS will come up with a study that will detail investment and trade opportunities between the two countries and pave the way for the direction that American and Filipino businessmen may take towards strengthening partnerships.

According to Cuisia, there are already companies in the energy and mining sector that are looking to invest in Philippines. Firms providing financial services as well as manufacturers have also voiced interest. 

Foreign ownership

The issue of foreign ownership was also discussed in context of TPP. 

Cuisia said “[There has been] no commitment to change the Constitution,” which bans foreigners from owning over 40% stake in key industries, including telecommunications and media, which are part of the business portfolio of Pangilinan’s business group. 

“There are implications that we’re going to do it but there has to be studies,” said Cuisia Jr. “We’re hoping to push it in the next Congress.” 

The USPS was launched during President Aquino’s visit in 2012 to raise the profile of the Philippines in the US. – Rappler.com

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