US Philippines Society

  Raising Awareness of Today's Philippines in the US

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Opportunities in PH Infrastructure Sector

In April 2019, top Philippine economic managers held meetings with U.S. business executives in Washington D.C. to explore opportunities in the fast-growing Philippine economy and the administration's $160 billion "Build Build Build"  infrastructure program.  The Duterte administration's massive undertaking  aims to  meet the demands for new roads, railways and ports and also  create jobs for the Philippine workforce. Exploratory meetings were held amid expectations for new partnership agreements under the framework of the  US government's Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act. U.S. companies have had long history in the Philippines, and through this initiative, as part of Washington's Indo-Pacific Strategy, the U.S. can play an enhanced role by introducing innovative infrastructure finance instruments, and leveraging private capital and skills to build infrastructure  in the Philippines and the region.

Economic Overview by Secretary Ernesto Pernia

Economic Briefing at Stimson Center
L-R: USPHS Executive Director Hank Hendrickson, Society Director Roberto Llames, Stimson Center Director Brian Eyler, International Trade Specialist David Nufrio, Acting Deputy Director (International Trade Administration) Michele Sylvester Jose, Secretary Pernia and USPHS President Ambassador John F Maisto. Washington, D.C.

At an April 10 forum co-organized by US-Philippines Society and the Stimson Center,  Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Dr. Ernesto Pernia assured U.S. audiences that the Philippine economy is one of the faster growth performers in ASEAN averaging 6.5 % growth for the past 10 quarters under the Duterte administration. Outlook for the Philippines remains positive and sustainable with targets of a 7 percent to 8 percent growth rate in 2019 -2022. This growth trajectory is underpinned by structural transformation, policy reforms and a $160 billion Build Build Build infrastructure program.

The Secretary explained how growth is increasingly being driven by investments vis-à-vis consumption on the demand side, and by the industry sector and manufacturing relative to the service sector on the supply side. In 2018, capital formation grew at 14 percent surpassing household consumption. Total factor productivity growth pegged at 3 percent is among the highest in the ASEAN region. Inflation rate in February 2019 slowed to 3.8 per cent within the optimal target range. Secretary Pernia pointed that the current investment climate and sovereign credit rating of BBB stable are opportune conditions for domestic and foreign investors. (Weeks following Sec Pernia's presentation, S &P Global upgraded the country's credit rating to "BBB+" with a "stable" outlook.)

Amid risks and uncertainties, including the easing of global economic growth, natural hazards and agricultural supply bottlenecks, PH economic managers are moving to diversify export markets, promote regional development, boost domestic spending, and plan for more resilient communities.

An Updated Public Investment Program 2017-2022 valued at US $208 billion identified ample opportunities for public private partnerships and multilateral financing in infrastructure projects including the game-changing flagship projects that are still in pre-investment studies and budgeting and financing stages. Indicative cost of the projects is valued at PhP1,500 billion (US$29 billion) as of February 2019.

Select examples of these infrastructure projects showed economic internal rates of return ranging from 10.5 per cent for the North-South Commuter Railway System to a high 20.1 percent for the New Cebu International Container Port.

Secretary Pernia concluded with a pitch directed at investors to choose the Philippines as an investment destination at a time when President Duterte is fully committed to Philippine Development Plan 2022, a socioeconomic road map transforming the Philippines to upper middle-income economy.

Paul Shmotolokha
Senate Confirmation Hearing of Director Paul Shmotolokha
Society Director Nominated as First Vice-President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States

On April 29, 2019, US-Philippines Society Director Paul Shmotolokha was nominated by President Donald Trump to be First Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Photo: Director Shmotolokha is joined by family and Executive Director Hank Hendrickson during a Senate confirmation hearing. The Export-Import Bank (EXIM) is the official export credit agency of the United States. 
A Celebration of the 121st Anniversary of Philippine Independence
World-renowned Filipina classical pianist Cecile Licad capped an evening at Washington's Kennedy Center, June 17, 2019, commemorating the 121 st  anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence. The concert followed a diplomatic reception featuring formal speeches by Ambassador Jose M. Romualdez and Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao, along with a special appearance by reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray. Ambassador John Negroponte recognized the generous support by Co-chair Manuel V. Pangilinan that made the evening possible.

Miss Universe Catriona Gray joins Ambassador Romualdez and Under Secretary Bulatao at the cutting of the Kalayaan 2019 cake, Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.
Filipina Classical Pianist Cecile Licad performed compositions by Frederick Chopin and Filipino composer Francisco Beuncamino, Kennedy Center

Kaiser Permanente
US-Philippines Society Executive Director Hank Hendrickson
Asian American Heritage Month with Focus on the Philippines 

Kaiser Permanente (KP) celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a focus on the Philippines featuring Philippine food and a presentation by US-PH Society Executive Director Hank Hendrickson on the Philippines and US-PH relations. The event attracted a diverse group from KP's AAPI Association at the company's large Mid-Atlantic Headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.
Migrant workers day
Traditional Filipino Spirit of Bayanihan "Togetherness"  and Kamayan style outdoor buffet
Traditional Bayanihan Spirit 

The US-Philippines Society participated at the celebration, Migrant Workers Day, organized by the Philippine Embassy on June 8. Personal consultations on investment and business options, and entrepreneurship were offered by trade and agriculture attaches. 

Overseas Filipino workers account for steady inward remittances to the Philippines amounting to $29 billion in 2018. A large portion of foreign cash inflows originate in the U.S.

Professor Ambeth Ocampo
Honoring National Hero Rizal

History professor Ambeth R. Ocampo delivered a riveting presentation "Rizal: The Hero as Traveler" at the Sentro Rizal Washington DC, June 10, 2019, co-sponsored by the USPHS. Dr. Jose Rizal traveled in Asia and briefly stopped in the United States on his voyage to Europe.

Dr. Rizal's writings include the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. His works are widely read around the world. Prof Ocampo's presentation focused on the relevance of Rizal's legacy in the 21st century. 

Transition to New Autonomy Arrangements in Muslim Mindanao  

At an April 9 forum, "Transition to Autonomous Muslim Mindanao," development practitioner David Timberman offered insights on the progress and challenges of the new era of the Bangsamoro with a review of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and the transition governing body, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). 

Officially inaugurated on March 29, the  BARMM government will have authority over development, economic growth, and the use of natural resources. Timberman visited Manila and Cotabato City where he held on-the-ground discussions with stakeholders and former MILF leaders. He  described key aspects of the BARMM in terms of geography and demographics with a population of 3.8 million, a parliamentary form of government consistent with the Philippine Constitution, and resources along with an annual block grant estimated at PhP 60 billion (US$1.2 billion) starting in 2020.

The three-year BTA interim government is composed of 41 members endorsed by MILF, and 39 members affiliated with the MNLF and representatives of non-Moro indigenous communities, youth, women, settler communities, and traditional leaders. Timberman noted that the decommissioning of MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Forces (BIAF) fighters and their weapons, a part of the normalization track and currently on its second phase, is a key aspect of security improvements in the South.

Vested with executive and legislative powers, the interim BTA is faced with multiple challenges, including power sharing arrangements between traditional leaders and a new and larger group of decision-makers. Other challenges include multi-political party building, violent extremism, the rehabilitation of Marawi, which is part of the BARMM, and factions that could undermine the peace process.

Timberman offered policy recommendations including coalition building, the nature of compromise to sustain the process, adoption of a budget system with accountability, capacity-building, and mechanisms for better donor coordination.

Transition to Autonomous Mindanao
L-R: Executive Director Hank Hendrickson, Anna Bantug Herrera (The Asia Foundation), Dr. Chet Crocker (Georgetown University), David Timberman, President Amb John F. Maisto, Professor William Wise (moderator), and Brian Eyler (The Stimson Center)
Alpha Tech Solar Power Solution
Solar Power Solutions at work in Mindanao
A Solar Power Project For Evacuees

Using "off-grid" electric power installed by Alpha Technologies, fresh water  is channeled to Pagayawan, a community for Marawi evacuees. 

The village once influenced by ISIS-inspired militants is a focus of ongoing US and PH counter-terrorism efforts to combat extremist groups. 

US-Philippines Society Director Paul Shmotolokha of Alpha Technologies, who led the project, said he was inspired to offer his expertise and resources when he attended the USPH Society board meeting in Manila.

April 1 2019
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan at bilateral talks in Pentagon.
Defense Secretary's Visit

On April 1, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan held talks to reaffirm defense cooperation, commitment to fighting terrorism, support for armed forces modernization program and close consultation through existing dialogue mechanisms, including  the Philippines-U.S. Bilateral Strategic Dialogue and the Mutual Defense Security Engagement Board. 

Secretary Lorenzana was honored at a luncheon hosted by US-Philippines Society Director Henry B. Howard on March 31, 2019, Washington D.C. 

Representative Amihilda Sangcopan
A Perspective on Mindanao

A June 25 forum, "A Perspective on Mindanao," with newly re-elected Representative Amihilda Sangcopan of the Anak Mindanao Party-list provided an overview of the transition to a new autonomous governing body in the BARMM, priorities of the incoming 18th Philippine Congress and an update on the rehabilitation and recovery plan in Marawi City.  


Under the Children of Marawi project, Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), US-Philippines Society implementing partner, held the first in a series of Health Camps on May 28, 2019 at the Barangay Sagonsongan Rural Health Center in Marawi.  Trained health personnel had undergone maternal and child health care sessions supervised by the  Makati Medical Center Foundation  to service the community of evacuees.  An orientation session introduced beneficiaries to the services and personnel of the rural health center.  Eating Healthy, Proper Hand washing , and Dental Care, Blood Sugar Testing for Adults (8-hr fasting) and gathering of Baseline Health Data for Adults were some of the activities conducted through training supported by the project. 

Marawi RHC
Training of DOH-Qualified Personnel Assigned in the Marawi Rural Health Center (top and right photos). Photo credit:PDRF
Marawi RHC
Meeting the beneficiaries of the Rural Health Center
Marawi RHC