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‘PBBM Malaysia visit hastened new deals’

SURROUNDED BY BUSINESSMEN. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is the guest of honor and keynote speaker in the opening ceremony of the 3rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council Meeting at the NUSTAR Convention Center in Cebu City on Friday. Joey Razon

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s three-day state visit to Malaysia has hastened the finalization of a P3 billion collaboration on rail-oriented projects between Manila and Kuala Lumpur and a $1 billion investment pledge for the expansion of Air Asia operations in the Philippines, the Palace said on Friday.

During a roundtable meeting organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) during the state visit, Mr. Marcos said he is glad that Air Asia, which is the fourth largest airline in the region, has a very good prospect for the Philippines.

“We’re all very happy that you have such good – you see such good prospects for the Philippines,” he said.

DTI Secretary Alfredo Pascual said that Air Asia’s Anthony Francis Fernandes signed a letter of intent, indicating expansion plans for his business in the Philippines, specifically for aviation and aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul operations, Air Asia super app, and logistics operations in the country.

“We’re excited about what we can do in the Philippines and really stimulate small, medium enterprises … we are excited. We think we can bring a lot of value to the Philippines on logistics,” Fernandes told President Marcos during the roundtable meeting in Malaysia.

“So, over the next few years, we think we’ll invest about one billion US dollars into the Philippines. We have about $300 million so far. We want to grow our aircraft from 23 to 50 including wide-body aircraft…We are just applying for the license now,” he added.

In a separate interview, the President said the contract between the Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC) and Malaysia’s Hartasuma Sdn. Bhd. is part of $285 million pledges the country secured during his trip.

He said the joint project showed the commitment of the Philippines and Malaysia to improving physical connectivity such as roads, railways, and other forms of transportation.

“Literally, because of the visit, the President’s presence in KL [Kuala Lumpur] hastened the progress of this agreement and three billion will be pledged for investments into the Philippines,” Speaker Marti Romualdez said.

“Under the collaboration agreement, ‘the Parties have expressed their desire to engage in railway engineering and maintenance, and other rail-oriented projects in the Philippines in line with the government’s aspiration to modernize the Philippines’ railway network,’” he added.

Hartasuma is a pioneer in the Malaysian rail industry.

Meanwhile, Philippine and Malaysian private sector groups signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore joint efforts in agriculture development, focusing on palm oil, rubber, and other agricultural commodities that may thrive in both countries.

The ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) Malaysia and ASEAN BAC Philippines signed the MOU during the 3-day state visit of Mr. Marcos.

“Public-private partnerships are essential as we move toward regional economic integration and make our agriculture industries productive and competitive. We have already several of these big-brother models in the Philippines covering prime commodities like tobacco, coconut and rice, with large Philippine companies like Universal Leaf, Lionheart Farms, and Yovel East successfully implementing their inclusive models in the communities where they operate,” said ASEAN BAC Philippines chairman Joey Concepcion.

He added both groups are aiming to encourage more big-brother companies to participate.

Malaysian investors have likewise expressed interest in the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), the Philippines’ first-ever sovereign wealth fund, Mr. Marcos said.

He, however, noted that Malaysian investors are “the most careful of all” and want to know the specifics of the business before making any investment.

“All of them have expressed interest because that is business,” the President said.

“You have to be specific. Once we get to that point, then we can talk about the amounts that are going to be invested both by the fund and, of course, by our private sector partners,” he said.

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