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Highlights of the 2020 US-Philippines Society Board Meeting and Business Program in Manila

Manila, Philippines – Directors of the US-Philippines Society concluded a timely and productive three-day board program in the Philippines on February 19. In meetings with legislative leaders Senator Koko Pimentel, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, and Representative Rufus Rodriguez the delegation discussed the future of Philippines-United States security ties following the Visiting Forces Agreement termination announcement, along with the broader scope of bilateral relations, including trade, investment, educational, agricultural and technology exchanges.

Sessions with DTI Under Secretary Ceferino Rodolfo and AmCham senior advisor John Forbes described opportunities and challenges in strengthening business ties under the Trade and Investment Facilitation Agreement and a possible Free Trade Agreement. US-ASEAN Business Council President Alex Feldman joined by video, presenting a perspective on American business engagement in the region. Key topics ranged from improvements in the regulatory environment to the dynamics of competition for foreign investment among top tier ASEAN economies.

With an eye on the upcoming 2020 American presidential election, the program included an insightful election year preview coupled with policy implications for U.S. relations throughout the Indo-Pacific. Presenters were distinguished Washington political consultant Jonathan Slade and Professor William Wise, a senior fellow from the Stimson Center.

A session on global political and security risks highlighted concerns facing business decision-making ranging from the erosion of the post-World War II economic architecture to 21st century climate change challenges. Transnational threats expert Thomas Sanderson catalogued growing international and regional threats, while defense analyst Ann Febel Bajo updated the board on security and political trends in the southern Philippines. PDRF President Rene Meily briefed on current threats and the impact of the Taal volcano and Coronavirus. J.V. Emmanuel De Dios, CEO of GE Philippines, provided a hands-on practical perspective on how major companies process global and regional challenges as they make investment decisions.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin headlined a comprehensive February 18 session on U.S., China, and Regional Power Dynamics. He reviewed the VFA termination decision and underlined the continuing importance of alliance relations.

The session featured a richly analytical keynote presentation on China by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who joined by video and who now heads the Asia Society Policy Institute. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard provided a first-hand perspective on the VFA, a bilateral agreement designed to facilitate U.S.-Philippines cooperation in military exercises, joint training, ship visits, force modernization, humanitarian assistance and confronting the full range of security threats. Secretary Locsin hosted a follow-on roundtable discussion with the delegation at DFA on US-Philippine relations that included participation by Strategic Communications Secretary Ernesto Abella and Assistant Secretary Maria Isleto.

The Board of Directors meeting reviewed 2019 programs and charted the way forward in the new year. The board recognized Society co-chair Manuel V. Pangilinan and Director Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala for their leadership in mobilizing private sector disaster recovery assistance through PDRF in partnership with the US-Philippines Society.

On February 19, a select delegation of Society members visited Clark for a first-hand look at the area’s remarkable progress in transforming the former American air base into a modern commercial and transportation hub. BCDA President Vince Dizon briefed on Clark’s expansion plans going forward. A visit to PDRF’s Operations Center showcased the Philippines’ progress through private sector partnerships in monitoring and responding to natural disaster threats. Director Dennis Wright provided a unique insider’s view focusing on Clark’s position as an attractive business and governance center beyond Metro Manila.

Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez provided essential support throughout the Society’s annual board program and hosted a welcome reception that brought together USPS directors with top Philippine government and private sector leaders. Highlighting the reception was the awarding of the Society’s 2020 Carlos P. Romulo Awards to Manuel V. Pangilinan, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Doris Magsaysay Ho and Ambassador Sung Y. Kim for their public and diplomatic service in partnership with the Society.

In reviewing the program, Society President Ambassador John Maisto said, “We arrived at a critically important juncture to reinforce the enduring ties between our two countries. The Society’s presence underscores that commitment in tangible terms. Special thanks to our Philippines-based membership, led by Manny Pangilinan, and to ambassadors Babe Romualdez and Sung Kim.”

The US-Philippines Society marks its eighth anniversary this year as the premier non-partisan Philippine-American organization. This year’s visit included ex-ambassadors to the Philippines, co-chair John Negroponte and founding director Thomas Hubbard, along with Filipino and American business and civic leaders.

Co-Chair Manuel V. Pangilinan welcomed delegates and business leaders at the 2020 Philippines-U.S. Business Forum, Peninsula Manila Hotel, February 17, 2020

Panel discussion followed the briefing by Philippine legislators: House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, Peninsula Manila Hotel

Panelists (l-r): Jonathan Slade (The Cormac Group) and Professor William Wise (Stimson Center)

L-R: Panelists Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo and John Forbes (American Chamber of Commerce) following the video presentation of US-ASEAN Business Council President Alexander Feldman

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin delivered welcome remarks preceding the keynote address of Honorable Kevin Rudd on video. Discussants Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard and Renato Cruz de Castro offered a historical perspective on the PH-US defense relationship

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2020 Carlos P. Romulo Award

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March 9: Current U.S.-Philippines Relations and Perspective on Ways Forward, with Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez