2017 Philippines in Review: Strong Growth, Robust Partnerships, Solid Prospects
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel G. Romualdez delivered a comprehensive year-end report on developments during the first full year of the Duterte Administration to a large audience held on 18 December 2017 at the Philippine Embassy’s Romulo Hall, co-sponsored by the US-Philippines Society.
Ambassador Romualdez’ briefing for US Government officials, US-Philippines Society directors, private sector representatives, members of the Filipino-American community and the press, focused on the positive reforms and trends in the Philippine economy, which has sustained GDP growth of more than 6% for the past nine quarters.
“The economy’s growth rate can be attributed to a number of factors. Strong growth in exports, higher public spending, and improved performance in other areas, including the manufacturing and services sectors,” Ambassador Romualdez said.
The Ambassador also mentioned that preliminary internal consultations have begun on a potential bilateral Free Trade Agreement between the Philippines and the United States. In 2016, the US was the Philippines’ third largest trading partner and second biggest market for Philippine exports.
Infrastructure development, under the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” initiative was highlighted as a top priority of the Duterte Administration’s economic agenda. “The Administration’s goal is to invest over US$170 billion in six years. By 2022, the government is expected to spend nearly US$38 billion, or 7.4% of GDP, on infrastructure alone,” Ambassador Romualdez stated.
“Our economic managers emphasize the multiplier and expansionary effects of public and private investment in infrastructure and construction. The goal of the administration is to encourage investment in both urban and rural areas,” he added.
Also cited were the Philippine Government’s comprehensive tax program, higher credit ratings, reforms aimed at improvements in the ease of doing business, partnerships with diverse development partners, and sustained government focus on poverty alleviation and delivery of social services.
The Ambassador described achievements under the Philippines’ Chairmanship of the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN, with an emphasis on the importance of a peaceful and stable Southeast Asia.
Ambassador Romualdez noted the longstanding cooperative relationship between the Philippines and the United States.
“It is said that security and economic development are two sides of the same coin. Our partnership with the U.S. on political and security issues is just as robust as the economic relationship,” he said.
He acknowledged the effectiveness of U.S. assistance in meeting ISIS-inspired terrorist threats in Mindanao and identified counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics as a continuing focus of bilateral cooperation in 2018.
Speaking on people-to-people ties between the Philippines and the U.S., Ambassador Romualdez called on the members of the Filipino diaspora to make their own contributions to effect positive change. He also announced the Embassy’s plans to strengthen its science diplomacy program and the scheduled inauguration of “Sentro Rizal Washington DC” or the Philippine Cultural Center, in the first quarter of 2018.
The capacity audience expressed appreciation for the candid, informative and comprehensive year-end presentation.
Ambassador John Negroponte, Co-chair of the US-Philippines Society, observed, “Ambassador Romualdez provided a comprehensive review of an exceptionally eventful year for the Philippines and U.S.-Philippine relations. His presentation reached a diverse and influential American audience with a positive story of Philippine economic growth, strategic cooperation on bilateral and transnational issues, and prospects for increased trade and investment.”
US-ASEAN Business Council President and CEO, Mr. Alex Feldman, also remarked, “In his first state of the Philippines briefing, we were excited that new Philippine Ambassador to the USA Jose Manuel G. Romualdez was able to deliver such a comprehensive overview of the first eighteen months of the Duterte Administration.”
He further went on to say that, “The impressive economic growth that the Philippines has experienced over the last year and the predictions that it will continue into 2018 are the types of economic fundamentals that have attracted over $3.3 billion in American foreign direct investment to the Philippines and which will continue to attract US companies to the Philippines in the months and years ahead. Major initiatives to improve the business environment, such as the ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure development program and efforts to ease restrictions on foreign ownership in key sectors, will only make the Philippines an even more attractive destination for American corporations.”
In his closing remarks, Ambassador Thomas Hubbard welcomed Ambassador Romualdez to Washington as an old friend and congratulated the Philippine government on its work in 2017, including success in combating the terrorist threat in Marawi.
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The Year-End Briefing was co-sponsored by the Philippine Embassy and the US-Philippines Society.