Politics

US firms to invest over $1B in PHL

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US COMMERCE SECRETARY Gina Raimondo is seen during a meeting in Malacañang, March 11, 2023. — PPA POOL

MAJOR US COMPANIES are set to announce over $1 billion worth of investments in the Philippines, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Monday.

“US companies are eager to do business in the Philippines,” she said at a press conference on Monday at Solaire Resort and Casino in Pasay City.

“On this trip alone, these companies are announcing over a billion dollars worth of US investments, including creating educational opportunities to over 30 million Filipinos in the form of digital upskilling, artificial intelligence upskilling and digital training.”

Ms. Raimondo is in Manila for a two-day visit with the 22-member US Presidential Trade and Investment Mission. The mission includes executives from GreenFire Energy, Inc., Google, Black & Veatch Corp., Visa, Inc., President’s Export Council, EchoStar, InnovationForce, United Airlines, United Parcel Service (UPS), Boston Consulting Group, KKR, Marquis, Sol-Go, Capital One, US-Asean Business Council, Bechtel, Apl.de.Ap Foundation International, FedEx, Mastercard, Microsoft Corp., Ultrapass ID and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp.

“Every one (of these companies) is investing additionally and significantly in the Philippines. Of course they’re making these investments on a great foundation. The US-Philippine alliance is iron clad. It is sustained over 72 years, and we remain steadfast friends and increasingly partners in prosperity,” Ms. Raimondo said.

In particular, Ms. Raimondo said an electric vehicle education center, solar and nuclear projects, and a new airline route will be announced through the trade mission.

“We are announcing an electric vehicle education center to train Filipinos for jobs in a very fast-growing industry, and we are announcing solar and nuclear projects to support the Philippines energy and climate goals,” she added.

Philippine Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said that two US companies have offered to help upskill the Filipino workforce.

“Companies part of this mission, such as Microsoft and Google, are key players in promoting digital transformation and development in the sector, and they are also offering their expertise in helping to upskill our workforce,” Mr. Pascual said.

Secretary Frederick D. Go, who heads the Office of the Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs, said these training programs will help Filipino workers gain an advantage in the cybersecurity sector.

“There’s a global demand for a cybersecurity workforce, and I think that if we are able to capture this market share and if the Filipinos are recognized to be the best in the world for cybersecurity, that would be a wonderful employment opportunity for millions of Filipinos,” Mr. Go said.

Mr. Pascual said executives from the 22 US companies that make up the trade mission have discussed with President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. their investments and expansion plans which cover sectors such as logistics, semiconductors, and renewable energy.

“These include logistics giants like FedEx and UPS, the support of our semiconductor electronics manufacturing sector, which is our biggest export from the Philippines to our partner countries, as well as companies like Greenfire Energy and Sol-Go focusing on renewable energy sources such as geothermal and solar,” Mr. Pascual said.

These investments will have varying timelines, the Trade chief said, adding that the upskilling project could potentially start immediately. On the other hand, Ultra Safe’s nuclear project is expected to materialize in the next five to seven years, he added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Go said that the Philippine government has also brought up the concerns of Philippine garment manufacturers with the US trade mission.

“We raised a particular issue about a Filipino company that manufactures garments and exports them to the US. We brought this to their attention that the Filipino garment manufacturing company needs some support from the US government, and they said they will look into it,” Mr. Go said.

Mr. Pascual said that the issue stemmed from the move by the US to ban garments made from cotton from Xinjiang, China, which are allegedly picked by members of the Muslim Uyghur minority under forced labor.

“There is a law in the US that prohibits buying goods produced by forced labor. But the fact of the matter is that the cotton used by our apparel companies does not come from China but from Brazil, Turkey, and the US itself,” he said.

“That should not have been; I mean, apparel (from the Philippines) that was held up should not have been detained,” he added.  — Justine Irish D. Tabile