Marcos Jr. administration

Gov’t says Marcos foreign trips attracted P4-T investments, but most yet to be realized

Dwight de Leon

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Gov’t says Marcos foreign trips attracted P4-T investments, but most yet to be realized

SUMMIT. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Liza Araneta Marcos during their visit to Tokyo for the Commemorative Summit on the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation in December 2023.

PCO

The whopping figure provided by Malacañang needs nuance, since many of the investments that the Marcos administration takes pride of are still in early stages

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has drawn flak this year over what his critics have described as excessive foreign travels, but as 2023 comes to a close, the administration wants to convince the public that the trips were far from meaningless.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), according to a press release from Malacañang on Tuesday, December 26, said that that his trips abroad has brought home $72.18 billion or nearly P4 trillion in foreign investments.

As per the agency, the amount covers 148 projects, mostly in the sectors of renewable energy, data centers and telecommunications, manufacturing, information technology and business process management.

So does that justify Marcos’ jet-setting style of leadership?

First, the whopping figure needs some nuance, since the projects are in various investment stages.

Over a third of that value – around P1.52 trillion ($27.34 billion) – is classified as “confirmed investment not covered by memorandum of understanding (MOU) or letter of intent (LOI) and still in the planning stage,” according to the press release from the Presidential Communications Office (PCO).

Another P1.59 trillion ($28.53 billion) is listed as investments where an MOU or LOI has been signed.

In fact, of the P4 trillion, only around P11.4 billion ($205.53 million) covered the value of investments where the business has been registered, and was operational. This figure is the same as what DTI Secretary Alfredo Pascual reported to the House of Representatives back in August.

Graphics by Raffy de Guzman/Rappler

In short – as Rappler’s resident economist JC Punongbayan puts it – “only a small fraction are realized investments.”

“If you look at the breakdown provided, more than 90% of the touted investments are just pledges – signed agreements and those still in the planning stage),” he said. “We should all be asking: one and a half years into the Marcos administration, why are actual investments not arriving in earnest?”

In his explainer piece back in October, Punongbayan named some possible reasons: high inflation, slow economic growth, and policy uncertainty.

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Increasing number of foreign trips

Marcos nearly doubled the number of times he left the Philippines this year, from six in 2022, to 11 in 2023.

Majority of the trips were due to his participation in summits and conferences attended by other world leaders, although the large delegation he brought to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland, as well as his visit to Singapore to watch the F1 Grand Prix, have raised eyebrows.

“The Filipino people should not pay for the revenge travel of our top officials,” Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel said during House plenary debates for the proposed 2024 budget of the Office of the President in September.

Marcos had said half of the people that made up the huge delegation to the WEF in January came on their private capacity. His presence at the F1 Grand Prix, meanwhile, was in response to the invitation of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hisen Loong, according to Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin.

Bersamin has also defended the President’s trips, saying they would bring home livelihood opportunities that would speed up the country’s post-pandemic recovery.

So are the investments announced during the trips a direct offshoot of the President’s visit? Take it from socioeconomic planning chief Winnie Monsod, who was not buying what the current administration was selling.

“Based on my experience as National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general, the foreign direct investments (pledged by the private sector or state-owned companies of the host country) were either already in the making or already a done deal, and just brought together to coincide with the visits,” she said in a piece back in February.

“The more investment pledges that are covered by LOIs and MOUs, the iffier they are, with the LOIs being more iffy than the MOUs,” she added. “Those documents are not legally binding. They are just words, with the MOUs a little more substantial than the LOIs. The signatories are not constrained to put their money where their mouths are.”

Nonetheless, don’t expect Marcos to slow down on his foreign trips, as the President’s office has requested a substantial boost in his travel budget for next year. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.