MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Saturday, January 21, that his “crucial participation” at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland yielded “beneficial outcomes” for the country in the form of potential investments, as well as solicited advice on the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund.
“The trip has yielded beneficial outcomes relative to new trade and investment opportunities, and key partnerships forged to support our development program, a better appreciation for Filipino workers and professionals, and the promise of increased level of cooperation with various countries around the world,” the President said in his arrival statement.
“The business meetings held promise new investments in many of our economic sectors including mining and processing, digital solutions, logistics, telecommunications, and renewable fuel, amongst others, and will enable our companies to participate deeper in global value chains,” he also said.
Marcos said his team will work on building on their discussions with business executives in Davos. In an interview with Philippine media in Zurich on Friday, January 20, Marcos recognized that the process of securing investments is a long one and not always guaranteed.
“This is a process. You don’t go one time and you come home and you know, everybody is going to invest $1 trillion already. Hindi ganoon (It’s not like that). We have to introduce them to the Philippines again. We have to ask them to come to the Philippines, send the team to make assessments on the business side et cetera. And then eventually kung magkaintindihan, magkakaroon ng bagong (if there’s a consensus, there will be a new) investment,” he told reporters.
Maharlika Fund consultations
Marcos also reported in his arrival statement that he seized the chance to consult with experts in Davos on his administration’s proposed Maharlika Fund.
“I took the opportunity as well to consult with our friends and partners in Davos on the sovereign wealth fund as a means for us to diversify our income sources, and to generate various welfare effects to the Filipino people, while recognizing that this is a collaborative work with experts and our lawmakers so that its final form is what we intend it to be,” he said.
Ahead of the Davos trip, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sorreta had said in a news briefing that Marcos himself had wanted a “soft launch” of the proposed Philippine sovereign wealth fund on the sidelines of the WEF.
“The WEF is a great venue to do a sort of soft launch for our sovereign wealth fund, given the prominence of the forum itself and the global and business leaders who will be there, and they will hear directly from the President the fundamentals that we have that led us to decide that we should have a sovereign wealth fund,” Sorreta had said.
On Saturday, Marcos described the discussion on the proposed fund in Davos as “interactive.”
“Not only did we present our ideas on what the fund should look like but we asked them, what do you think would be most advantageous for the Philippines so as to allow the potential investments that you are thinking about bringing into the Philippines, and how the fund would be best designed to service that investment,” he said.
Big delegation? ‘We try to be complete’
During the media interview on Friday, Marcos also responded to criticism about his “bloated” official delegation to the WEF in Davos.
“Well, the delegation was large. But half of it was private. They came here on their own. They stayed in their own places. They made their own arrangements. Although they are technically part of the delegation. So the delegation essentially just consists of the Cabinet secretaries, myself, the Speaker, and of course the staff that support them,” he said.
The President also said that it did not matter how many passengers boarded Philippine Airlines flight PR001 – a chartered flight – because the government will still pay the same amount.
“In regards of the plane, kahit naman ilan ang isakay mo ‘yan, pareho lang ibabayad mo. So doesn’t make any difference kung how many people came on (In regards of the plane, no matter how many rode it, you will still pay for the same amount. So it doesn’t make any difference how many people came on).”
Marcos also said that he wants his team to be “complete” for such events, especially his Cabinet secretaries in case there are questions related to their respective agencies.
“We try to be complete. When is the next chance we will get to speak to CEOs of Top Fortune 100 companies, in a period of two days?” he said.
“So whoever we get to talk to, kailangang nandoon ang secretary na puwede niyang sagutin, puwede niyang kausapin. May tao doong nakakaalam tungkol sa mga bagay na kailangan gawin. So that if there is something that needs to be done, they can do it immediately,” the President added.
(So whoever we get to talk to, the secretary is there to answer questions. There would people there who would know what needs to be done.)
Asked why his cousin, House Speaker Romualdez, and Senator Mark Villar were part of the delegation, Marcos said they were there to make sure that there are legislators who could ease potential investors’ concerns about some Philippine laws.
“Let’s say you talk to a potential investor, sasabihin niya ‘yong batas ninyo hindi maganda eh, kami naiipit (they would say the law is not good, we’re put in a tight squeeze). So at least we have the legislators here who can say, ‘Well, we can do something about it or no, that is important to us that we maintain it,'” Marcos said.
From January 15 to 20, the jet-setter president embarked on his eighth foreign trip as chief executive and flew to Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF). In the forum, he was supposed to present his economic plans for the country.
But for JC Punongbayan, economist and Rappler columnist, Marcos, the lone leader from Southeast Asia in the forum, had nothing to show for at the WEF.
Critics also called out the Marcos government for spending money for the trip despite the rising prices of basic commodities in the Philippines.
The President’s official delegation included his nuclear family – First Lady Louise Araneta-Marcos, and their son, Ilocos Norte congressman Sandro Marcos. Speaker Romualdez’s wife, Tingog Representative Yedda Marie Romualdez, also joined the trip.
Actress Dawn Zulueta, wife of Special Assistant to the President Secretary Anton Lagdameo, was spotted during the trip. Zulueta is not a government official.
Meanwhile, Paul Soriano, Marcos’ godson and presidential adviser on creative communications, was also spotted in Davos. Soriano’s job covers advising departments and agencies “on matters that will enhance their information dissemination programs and initiatives.” – Rappler.com