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The visit of a sitting Philippine President to the US has been long overdue. Our relationship with the US has taken a back seat in the previous administration, and now it needs to be strengthened. Foremost reason is that it is home to a lot of our kababayans. I myself have two grandchildren who are American citizens, so I can relate with the millions of Filipinos out there who have established roots here and made it their second home.
Our relationship with the US is something that can’t easily be dismissed. Almost half of the remittances which helped buoy the Philippine economy during the pandemic came from US-based Pinoys. Likewise, we supply critical manpower to the US, and Americans have great respect for Filipino workers, especially our nurses.
There were three major business meetings, spread out from Sept. 19 to 23. First was the Economic Forum at the New York Stock Exchange, then the Philippine Economic Briefing at the Carlyle, and then the meeting with Asia Society.
The latter was split into two events: a high-level roundtable meeting and a public forum hosted by former Australia PM Kevin Rudd. The former struck me as important because Asia Society Philippines Chair Doris Magsaysay Ho and Vice Chair Myla Villanueva gathered together some of the world’s largest private equity investors.
At the meeting were former ambassador John Negroponte of McLarty Associates, Ken Mehlman of KKR, Andrew Thomas of Stonepeak, Mark Tatum of NBA, Dinesh Kanna of Boston Consulting, Michael Kirban of VitaCoco, Proof of Learn founder Shiela Marcelo, Asia Society trustee Asheet Mehta of McKinsey, Nick Rohatyn of The Rohatyn Group, Itai Lemberger of Bow Wave Capital, Brian Franke of Indigo Partners, and Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai, who is also already invested in Mynt, or Gcash.
They got to meet some of the country’s leading tycoons, who enthusiastically made the pitch for the Philippines as an investment destination.
I made the pitch for public-private partnerships, which I think presents huge opportunities for foreign investors. Public-private sector partnerships have met with success in the country, as proven by our experience during the pandemic where private-public sector cooperation was crucial in securing vaccines, supporting mass testing, and coordinating with enforced lockdowns. The opportunities in the Philippines are huge, and many still remain untapped. There may be a lot of headwinds but we’re making progress.
Beyond that, they are an opportunity to promote inclusive growth in the country, especially if these investments benefit our MSMEs, which comprise almost all of the enterprises in the Philippines.
I believe that we in the delegation want to make this growth more inclusive. We saw during the pandemic that what happens to the least of our entrepreneurs affects the large corporations. Likewise, if the small entrepreneurs do well, even the large corporations benefit.
I think that the President’s winning the biggest mandate in Philippine history inspired the private sector to join in this roadshow and entice these investors to make the country their investment destination. Likewise, it reflected in how the foreign investors were eager to connect with us, seeing how well-attended the briefings were and how the meetings started on time and went as scheduled. I was even surprised to find the meetings packed way before they were scheduled to begin. It just goes to show how much enthusiasm there is for the Philippines, and how we should all get behind it.
The President’s visit was also an opportunity for us in the delegation to get to know the man who will be leading our country for the next six years.
It was a very well-organized visit, choreographed with precision by no less than the First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos. The President’s family was there all the way, supporting him at every turn. With the First Lady was their congressman-son, Sandro, who stepped up and conducted himself with composure as he met heads of state. Then there was House Speaker Martin Romualdez, who is the President’s cousin. And in the sidelines, quietly documenting the trip’s more personal moments, was the President’s son, Simon.
Yes, Simon was there, though you wouldn’t know it because he was always behind the camera, taking snapshots of his dad onstage, even as the family took time off to go to the park or catch a show.
It was these unscheduled, more relaxed moments that allowed us in the delegation to appreciate just how united this family is. A lot of the credit goes, of course, to the First Lady, who, in addition to being a competent lawyer, is also the ideal partner to the President in many respects. Not only did she organize the events very well, she also made sure there was enough time for the family. How else can the President sneak in an impromptu meal at a food truck, or enjoy a show on Broadway without interrupting the various engagements that absolutely had to go without a hitch?
A man who gives time for his family always has my respect. But to see how well this family works together, how they support each other, is just inspiring. They each have their role and these roles are now all focused on supporting the President, the head of their family, and now the head of our country.
Imagine how it would benefit the country as a whole if we, too, imbibed that spirit of unity, taking on our roles and performing them as well as we could. Imagine how much faster our recovery will be if we worked more as a team, as the Marcos family did on this US trip, and as we are now beginning to put into practice in our public-private partnerships.