CHICAGO — A group of economic team from the Philippines led by Dr. Bernardo Villegas travelled to Seattle, Washington and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to invite investors to the Philippines.
The Filipino economic managers started the roadshow that showcased the Philippines as Asia’s new emerging tiger last Oct. 19 in Pittsburg, then in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas last Oct. 21 and in Seattle on Oct. 23.
The other members of the topnotch business delegation were Engelbert Camasura, Partner at Ward Howell International Consulting Firm; Ronaldo Elepaño, 1st Vice President for Business Development International at DM Consunji, Inc.; Jose Mari Mercado, President and CEO of the Information Technology & Business Process Association of the Philippines; and Juan Olondriz Peña, President of RAJI INC.
Writing about the first delegation in 2012, Villegas explained that the “apparent reticence of US investors to invest heavily in the Philippines motivated me and a handful of top executives from the private sector to offer our services to Ambassador Jose Cuisia to organize a non-deal investment roadshow to three key cities in the US, i.e. Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco City. The results exceeded our expectations.”
That roadshow has since been followed by visits to Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston in 2013 and Houston, Atlanta and Philadelphia last year.
“The Philippines and the US are natural business partners because of our shared values,” said Ambassador Cuisia in opening this year’s roadshow in Pittsburgh. And in a subsequent statement, the envoy also noted that “since our flagship private sector-led investment roadshow in the U.S. in 2012, I have experienced first-hand that the wave of optimism and business confidence in the Philippines continues today. Through these annual events, we are connecting not only prominent Filipino businessmen, but also great Filipino minds, with American partners in promoting the Philippines’ improving business image in the United States.”
Villegas, who is also a Visiting Professor at IESE Business School, led off the presentations with an overview of the Philippine economy, and focused on the positive trends in growth and development. He also spoke on the weaknesses and challenges of the economy, while identifying the key industries for investments.
In his presentation, Villegas identified “a stable democracy, improved governance, strong macroeconomic fundamentals, an educated, young and English-speaking labor force, and OFW remittances as positive trends contributing to the Philippines becoming one of the emerging markets.” He added that “the Philippines is in a demographic sweet spot with the young and growing population being the main source of our competitive advantage.”
Throughout the roadshow, the delegates extolled the Filipino worker as a “global resource,” in the words of one, describing the talent pool as highly trainable, proficient in English, having an affinity with Western culture, having good customer service orientation and having a high level of commitment and loyalty.
There was much interest in the Philippine IT-BMP industry that has steadily grown to become an US$18.9 billion dollar industry, showing the continued and growing interest of international companies to invest and put up operations in the country. It is projected that 1.3 million people will be directly employed in IT-BPM by 2016, with the industry generating US$25 billion in revenue.
Even after nearly four years since the first roadshow, infrastructure and public-private partnerships continued to be important topics for American business. The delegation informed participants at the various forums that the Philippine government is allocating increased resources to infrastructure improvement and expansion, generating numerous opportunities for investment in the Philippines. In emphasizing the importance of infrastructure, Villegas expressed the hope that the next President in 2016 will be an “infrastructure President.”
Villegas argues that “President Aquino himself acknowledges that the strong recovery of the Philippines under his watch can be attributed to a series of reforms that spanned at least the last 27 years since the Administration of his mother. Gradually through more than a quarter of a century, the Philippines has been undergoing reforms towards more inclusive political and economic institutions.”