By GENALYN D. KABILING
MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino is back home with a bagful of investment prospects from American companies as a result of his good governance efforts.
The President arrived in Manila before dawn yesterday from a four-day working visit in the United States and cited the return of trust and confidence of the international community towards the country.
Aquino earned accolade from US President Barack Obama and other government and business leaders when he showcased his administration’s transparency efforts during the launch of the Open Governance Partnership (OGP) in New York City. He also spoke before the World Bank-International Monetary Fund annual meeting in Washington DC.
“As I told the foreigners we talked with, good governance is good economics,” the President said upon arrival at the airport.
“It is indeed a major change. Before, we used to export horror stories about the situation in our country. Now, we have many invitations to share the best practices here in the Philippines,” he added.
The President said many US companies have expressed interest to invest in the country on the back on an improving economy, adding these would eventually generate more jobs for Filipinos.
He said two beverage firms, namely Pepsi Corporation and Vita Coco, plan to harvest coconuts in the country for the production of coconut water. Vita Coco, in particular, committed $15 million in investment.
“Drinking coco-water, which we call buko juice here, is now a fast growing craze in America. Since it is natural and nutritious, this has become a new natural sports drink in the US which has become a hundred-million-dollar industry,” he said.
Information technology firms such as IBM, Convergys Corp., and EXL Services are also considering expansion plans in the country, according to the President.
He said other companies from CG/LA Infrastructure and US-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) are also interested to invest in the country.
“They have only one message: ‘We like what we see. We are interested in bringing business to you. Let’s work together. We want to help you achieve your full potential’,” Aquino said.
Aquino pledged to ensure a business-friendly climate so that prospective investments by US firms would be processed clean and fast.
In the same speech, President Aquino said he was pleased to participate in the OGP summit wherein he took pride of his efforts on transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in government. The Philippines is part of the eight-nation OGP Steering Commitee that promotes open governance.
Aquino also met with the Filipino community in Washington DC and thanked them for their contribution to the local economic growth.
On Sunday morning, the President will travel to Japan for a flurry of meetings with top government and business leaders. He is also expected to secure $1 billion in fresh investments during his visit. Aquino will return home on September 28.
Among the highlights of his visit is forging greater investment collaboration, discussing global and regional issues on global import and maritime security, and enhancing strategic partnership and extensive relations, with Japan.
Part of his itinerary after his arrival in Tokyo, the President would visit on Monday Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture where he would attend to a Filipino community gathering there and meet city officials. It was one of the localities most severely hit by the tsunami in the March 11 disaster.
“We have been given information that it’s about to be finalized — a package of some kind of a gift to the people actually of that affected area,” said Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Maria Theresa Lazaro.
With his scheduled meeting on Sept. 27 with newly installed Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, they would discuss bilateral and regional issues particularly on the economic sphere.
“There is a lot of issues also on the regional issues such as maritime security, climate change, ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) economic summit which is APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) which would be around the corner — sometime in November,” said Lazaro.
“There will be discussions also on certain aspects of the JPEPA (Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement). Of course, as I have mentioned, the assistance they have been giving to us for Mindanao, among others,” she added.
Japan remains as the Philippines’ leading source of Official Development Aid (ODA) and one of its top trading partners, sources of foreign direct investments, and tourists.
The Japanese ODA has been contributing much to the Philippine government’s development efforts in many fields, including irrigation, flood control, education, health care, earthquake detection, rural road network construction and improvement, water supply and livelihood programs.
“Both leaders are also expected to discuss Japan’s development assistance for the Philippines particularly witnessing an exchange of notes on a 9.2-billion-yen loan package on the project on forest lands management which will benefit the Philippine river basins and upland regions,” said Lazaro.
The project covers at least four regions namely Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Western Visayas, and the Cordillera region.
“This will have three river basins with particular emphasis on the management — it is for disaster management — as well as tackling climate change,” Lazaro said.
On the same day, Aquino would engage in various business events and meetings with key Japanese business organizations such as the Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, the Japan-Tokyo Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Japan Philippine Economic Cooperation Committee.
It would be followed by a state call of the Chief Executive on Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito the next day, Sept. 28. (Raymund F. Antonio)