Vaccine maker, BPO firm mull PH expansion

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Two leading international companies have told President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. they intend to build facilities in the Philippines, bringing more jobs to Filipinos.
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President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. meets with Moderna officials on Tuesday afternoon (Washington time). (Photo courtesy of Malacañang)

In a series of meetings here on Tuesday afternoon, May 2, Marcos received the good news from business process outsourcing (BPO) company Atento and vaccine maker Moderna.

Atento will put up its first call center in the Philippines at the Iloilo Business Park in Madurriao, Iloilo.

Marcos told Atento officials—Atento President Fili Ledezma Soto and Chief Delivery Officer Josh Ashby—that they made the right decision in choosing the Philippines as their location as “Filipinos speak and write the best English.”

“I know it will be successful because it has been successful in the past. It has been a go-to industry for the Philippine government for quite a long time now,” Marcos said.

“I don’t see how it could be a problem since this is really a line of work that has become well established in the Philippines,” he added.

Atento is a customer relationship management and business process outsourcing company operating in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and the US.

Atento is projected to provide employment opportunities for around 554 workers in the first year and 665 workers in the second year, bringing in a significant investment of P21.4 million.

Vaccine-making facility

Vaccine maker Moderna has told the President that it is setting up a facility in the Philippines to service the Asia-Pacific region.

Moderna Chief Commercial Officer Arpa Garay and Senior Vice President and General Manager Patrick Bergstedt said they are set to establish a “Shared Service Facility for Pharmacovigilance” to provide more employment opportunities to health professionals in the country.

“We are really excited to have selected the Philippines for the third one primarily because you know the capabilities exist. We have the talent that exists, and we know that the partnership will be one that can be beneficial for both Moderna and the Philippines,” Garay said.

According to Bergstedt, the Philippines is the “perfect location” for their third shared service facility in the world, following Poland and Georgia in the US.
It will be Moderna’s only shared service facility in Asia, and is expected to employ around 50 staff composed of health professionals with their shortlisted office location either in Makati or at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

The project will also be the first investment by Moderna in the Philippines and in Asia.

Marcos expressed gratitude to Moderna saying, it will give the country advantage in healthcare.

“The opportunity to build shared services in areas of interest, connecting with the scientific, academic opportunity with Moderna, the ministry of health is something that we’re very, very interested in. The most important part is that we sat down and drew the program, and say this is how we approach the problem … Those are the kind of skills that we need. With your experience in other countries, there are many lessons that we could learn that can be applied in the Philippines,” Marcos said.

Moderna was among the pharmaceutical companies that pioneered the production of Covid-19 vaccines, which were distributed to the Philippines at the height of the pandemic.

US-PH society's economic commitment

The US-Philippines Society, co-chaired by US Ambassador John D. Negropotente, has vowed for greater cooperation and partnership in the development and economy of the Philippines.

Negropotente made the commitment following the group’s meeting with Marcos also on Tuesday afternoon. He noted that the visit of the President laid the framework for the commitment of the group to support Manila.

“(The) President’s visit… sets the table for our work, of US-Philippine Society in the months and years ahead, thank you for that,” he told Marcos.

Also known as The Society, the USPS is a non-profit, bi-national organization of prominent civic and business leaders of the US and the Philippines. Negroponte co-chairs it with Filipino businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

The Society was organized in May 2012 with the aim of enhancing awareness of the profile of the Philippines in the United States in the areas of security, trade, investments, tourism, the environment, history, education and culture.

Meanwhile, a top IBM executive Michael DiPaula Coyle said they are very bullish on the Philippine economy, and looks forward to working with the government to invest in digitalization.

“We’re also very heavily invested in helping grow your talent pool through skills development programs, we’ve had a number of partnerships with the US government with your government to improve skills development particularly in areas like… AI and cybersecurity where I think the Philippines has an enormous opportunity to position yourselves as a very competitive economy particularly in the IT services sector,” said Coyle, head of IBM’s International Trade Policy Government and Regulatory Affairs.

These meetings took place on the third day of Marcos' visit in the US.