At least 9 int'l firms express interest to invest, expand business in PH

DAVOS, Switzerland — Members of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s economic team said that at least nine international companies had signified their desire to invest or expand their business in the Philippines.

Communication Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, and Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista

In a briefing with Manila-based reporters here, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said he has met with officials of four companies, including Morgan Stanley chairman for Asia-Pacific Gokul Laroia. In a meeting with President Marcos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Laroia said that Morgan Stanley would open an office in Manila.

Pascual also mentioned having talks with Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda. Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide to offer free online courses to anyone.

He likewise said that they have talked with the officials of Glencore, a Swiss multinational company and one of the world's largest and most globally diversified natural resource companies.

The Trade Secretary added that he met with Astranis, a US-based company that provides low-level satellites for purposes of access to the internet.

"They're interested in bringing their operation to the Philippines. And what that will do is be able to provide connectivity to areas that are not yet connected at the moment through the main providers in the Philippines," Pascual said.

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said he has talked to five company executives, including Dolf van den Brink, CEO of Heineken, who expressed wanting to increase their presence in the Philippines. The Dutch pilsner is currently in partnership with Asia Brewery.

In addition, he said he spoke with Thomas Buberl, the CEO of leading Swiss insurer AXA, who told him that they are "interested in increasing their presence" in the Philippines. AXA is currently partnering with the Metrobank Group in the Philippines.

Bautista added that he talked with executives from Blackwater, a Chicago-based private venture capital firm. He said they are considering investing in infrastructure.

Aside from this, the Transportation Secretary said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair had expressed support for the Philippines' railway projects.

Bautista said he was able to meet another group willing to invest in the land transport businesses. The company supposedly refused to be named, but Bautista said it is "one of the biggest in the world."

During the same briefing, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the primary purpose of Marcos' participation in the WEF is to "sell the country."

"Ang purpose talaga nito (Our purpose) is to sell the country – nasaan tayo, ganoon (wherever we go, that's it)," he said.

What do world CEOs think of PH?

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the main concern of world CEOs was the state of the Philippines and where it is going.

"They have heard about our constraints, the issues, and what has been done by our key

decision-makers on these issues," he said.

"This participation in the WEF is very important because we are selling the Philippines. Now they have a better understanding of the projects of the Marcos administration," he added.

They ask a lot of questions about our moving forward--- policy concerns, policy issues, what we are doing to make the economy even more attractive for investors, what reforms are being

advanced, what legislative measures are being tackled to make the economy more attractive for long-term development," he added.

Meanwhile, Pascual said the world CEOs acknowledged that the Philippines' main selling point is its young, vibrant, and trainable workforce with a median age of 33+.

"Their confirmation that our young workers are very optimistic in their work and very good attitude toward work," he said.

What's in it for the ordinary people?

According to Balisacan, the public should understand that the effects of these talks have a long-term impact, particularly on job generation.

"I think iyong pinaka-practical na benefits nito sa mga ordinaryong Pilipino (I think the most practical benefit of this to the ordinary Filipino) is the jobs will be created ‘no at saka iyong quality ng jobs. Hindi mag-i-improve iyong quality ng jobs kung walang investment (and the quality of jobs. The quality of jobs won't improve without investment)," he said.

"Kinakailangan natin ng maraming investment to address iyong mga logistics issues natin, infrastructure, even sa mga social services (We need many investments to address our logistical issues including infrastructure and social services)," he added.

Meanwhile, Pascual hoped Filipinos would stop thinking of the immediate results and think ahead in the future.

"Kung palaging ang aasahan nila sa ating mga political leaders ay iyong immediate impact, eh puro short-term palliatives ang ibibigay sa mga tao. Eh ‘di saan tayo pupulutin niyan (If we'll keep on asking the immediate result from our political leaders, then what we'll get are short-term palliatives. Where would end up if that's the case)?" he said.

"Saan pupulutin ang Pilipinas ha? Kailangan natin maging long-term ang perspective (Where would the Philippines end up? We need to adopt a long-term perspective)," he added.