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President Duterte Welcomed the US-Philippines Society

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Directors of the US-Philippines Society concluded a highly successful five-day business mission to the Philippines on February 24 with a tour of typhoon recovery assistance projects in Tacloban City.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte personally welcomed the Society’s bi-national board, led by Co-chairs Manuel V. Pangilinan and Ambassador John D. Negroponte, during a 90-minute exchange at Malacanang Palace on Monday, 20 February. The president cited longstanding U.S.-Philippines ties and expressed optimism for future bilateral cooperation. He underscored a commitment to combat the drug epidemic and support public health and rehabilitation efforts. Philippine economic officials, led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, and American Ambassador Sung Y. Kim participated in a discussion aimed at exploring expanded business opportunities and sustaining strategic cooperation.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte meets with US-Philippines Society Directors. Photo credit: Rodriguez, Presidential Photographers Division

In a February 21 panel discussion with legislative leaders, including Senate President Koko Pimentel, Sen. Grace Poe, and Mindanao Congressman Max Rodriguez, the delegation welcomed assurances that congress would ease restrictions on foreign investment and strengthen a rules-based legal environment for investors. Sen. Pimentel outlined congressional strategy for supporting the Duterte Administration’s ambitious economic agenda and vision for a federal government structure.

Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines)’s video of the meeting

Top Philippine economic officials Secretary Dominguez, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, NEDA chief Ernesto Pernia, and Budget head Benjamin Diokno described for the delegation progress achieved over the past eight months in implementing the administration’s ten-point socio-economic plan. Officials projected continued GDP annual growth rates nearing seven percent, highest in East Asia, and underscored the importance of the upcoming appointment of a new Central Bank Governor to steer a consistent course on macro-economic policy. Dominguez was candid in reflecting local concern over uncertainties surrounding President Trump’s economic policies and implications for Asia-Pacific trade relations.

A private sector Business Dialogue, organized with AmCham, MBC, and the Philippines-United States Business Council, provided a platform for American and Filipino executives to assess 2017 bilateral investment opportunities. Former U.S. ambassadors to the Philippines John Negroponte and Thomas Hubbard presented a “View from Washington,” calling for patience as the Trump Administration reaches “cruising altitude” and clarifies trade and strategic policy directions.

Dr. Cielito Habito provided directors with a comprehensive look at prospects and opportunities for doing business in the Philippines. A blue ribbon panel discussion, led by M.V. Pangilinan, Amb. Jose E. B. Antonio and Jose Concepcion, identified sectors ripe for investment and factors underpinning prospects for sustained growth and development.

Society President Ambassador John F. Maisto signed a Memorandum of Agreement February 22 with Zuellig Family Foundation Chair Roberto Romulo and ZFF President Ernesto Garilao to assist maternal and child health programs in Samar. Amb Maisto also met with the Philippine Women’s CEO Circle led by Cristina Concepcion and Maan Hontiveros.

Members of the delegation toured a Drug Rehabilitation Center in Taguig on February 23 to better understand public health challenges posed by the Shabu epidemic and to explore ways the Society can assist in areas of education and rehab training. The delegation, led by Ambassadors Maisto and Antonio, met with Senator Alan Peter Cayetano at the DOH facility to learn more about Philippine government coordination of drug rehabilitation programs.

The February 24 visit to Tacloban capped a three-year effort by the US-Philippines Society in partnership with the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF), led by Directors M.V. Pangilinan and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, to assist victims of Typhoon Haiyan through programs to rebuild schools and housing and to restore livelihoods. Society Honorary Co-Chair Hank Greenberg has been a major donor to recovery programs, reflecting his longstanding support for building human capacity, promoting development and expanding business opportunities in the Philippines.

According to Amb. Maisto, “The comprehensive week-long program has equipped the Society to structure 2017 program planning in a way that reflects modern Philippine realities and opportunities.”

The US-Philippines Society marks its fifth anniversary this year as the premier non-partisan organization focusing on Philippine-American ties. The board’s membership includes Philippine Honorary Chair Washington Sycip, Special Envoy Jose E.B. Antonio, former ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. and top private sector leaders. U.S. firms represented on the board include a mix of high tech businesses new to the market, investors, and blue chip companies with expansive ties to the Philippines.

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