The recent Philippine economic briefing in Washington that the Philippine embassy helped organize with the Department of Finance was well attended. Many of those present were impressed at the economic development plans of the country. The Philippine showcase presented by Vince Dizon on the Clark transformation was a clincher because it is happening in real time.
The team headed by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, NEDA Secretary Ernie Pernia, Central Bank governor Ben Diokno, Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon and Monetary Board Member Bruce Tolentino, successfully elevated the profile of the country at the event dubbed as the “Philippine Day Forum” held at the sidelines of the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C.
About 150 high-level business executives were in attendance, and many were impressed at the turnout for the forum with the theme “Powering Progress Through Transformative Reforms.” Our Philippine Embassy Economic team headed by Economic Minister JV Chan-Gonzaga, Public Diplomacy Officer Darell Artates together with Annie Aquino, Special Assistant of Secretary Dominguez, did a great job in organizing the economic briefing. (Photos will be featured in This Week on PeopleAsia, at the Allure Section of the Philippine STAR next Sunday.)
The event was actually suggested by US Ambassador Sung Kim who recommended that we organize this forum since there was still a very strong interest among American businessmen about the developments in the Philippines, with many closely watching the economic and infrastructure reforms that have been happening. The IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings was opportune because it brought together top-level business executives, finance ministers, bankers, academicians and members of civil society organizations to discuss issues like economic development as well as poverty eradication, among many others.
I must say Secretary Dominguez was very succinct and straightforward, coming across as very articulate during his presentation and in handling inquiries and questions. As he explained, the Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, resilient despite the global headwinds.
This is borne out by the fact that in the past seven years, the country’s GDP growth has consistently been above six percent, averaging 6.5 percent growth in 2012-2018. According to the IMF, the Philippine economy is expected to grow 6.5 percent in 2019, while both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are projecting a 6.4 percent GDP growth, with the Philippines expected to perform better than its neighbors despite an uncertain business environment and other challenges such as natural disturbances like El Niño.
But even as we continue to be among the best performing economies in Asia and the rest of the world, the government under President Duterte has not lost sight of the need to bring down poverty rates and create more opportunities for Filipinos.
“Growth is not the final goal of all our efforts,” Secretary Dominguez emphasized. “The economic team stands by its goal of bringing down poverty incidence from 21.6 percent in 2015 to just 14 percent by the end of President Duterte’s term,” he said. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, poverty substantially decreased over the course of three years, down by 6.6 percentage points in the first half of 2018, with poverty incidence among Filipinos estimated at 16.1 percent.
The presentation of BCDA president Vince Dizon generated strong interest because it highlighted Clark which many Americans know as a former US military air base. They are excited about the infrastructure projects lined up for the New Clark City touted to be the first smart, green and disaster-resilient metropolis in the entire Philippines, combining lifestyle, business, nature, education and industry.
The new terminal of Clark International Airport, envisioned to provide world-class travel experience to passengers, is on schedule to be operational by mid-2020. The new terminal could increase passenger capacity to 12 million from the current 4.2 million. Positioned as the next gateway to the Philippines, Clark Airport’s capacity is expected to generate up to 80 million passengers annually at full development which spans four phases.
The day forum generated a lot of excitement in Washington, D.C. and I’m hopeful we can duplicate it with Secretary Dominguez for the West Coast where there is a natural interest on the Philippine economy and the potential areas for investment.
A major comment by Secretary Dominguez however was that while there was a high level of interest, US businessmen had been slow to act in terms of increasing investments in the Philippines. However, we are confident that the higher level of attention the country is now getting will get the ball rolling soon, so to speak. In fact, there are already many companies that are thinking of relocating from China to the Philippines, with Vietnam turning out to be our biggest competitor.
Secretary Dominguez also had a productive roundtable discussion with members of the US Chamber of Commerce, “the world’s largest business federation representing over three million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.” The luncheon meeting was held at the US Chamber of Commerce Building, also known as the Daniel Webster Building because it sits on land formerly owned by the American statesman who served as congressman, senator and Secretary of State for three presidents.
The success of the Philippine Day Forum and the USCC roundtable is to me a reaffirmation of the great value we put on the relationship between the US and the Philippines, and that we want economic ties between our nations to continually strengthen to balance it off with the recent economic developments that are happening with other countries.
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