US Philippines Society

  Raising Awareness of Today's Philippines in the US

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The Philippine economy remains one of the region's top performers with a sustained growth rate projected at six percent in 2019, marked by lower inflation and narrower current account deficits in the first half of the year. Private consumption has risen fueled by growing domestic employment and a steady increase in overseas workers remittances. Public spending on infrastructure is expected to pick up after the delayed passage of the 2019 budget and ban on expenditures prior to the mid-term elections. Infrastructure expenditure is on track toward a goal of spending 7 percent of GDP by 2022, up from a historical average of 2.8 percent. 

A reduction in the Philippine poverty rate has resulted from increased government spending on education and a strong Conditional Cash Transfer program that provides funds to the poorest families on a monthly basis on the condition that children are immunized and attend school.
 US-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue

The United States and Philippines held the eighth Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, July 15-16, 2019 in Manila to discuss a full range of political, security, and economic cooperation issues. A joint statement issued after the dialogue cited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's March press conference on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) assuring that any armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea will trigger Article IV of the Mutual Defense Treaty. Both countries pledged enhanced defense cooperation, improved maritime awareness, protection for freedom of navigation, and a commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes. 

The officials pledged to deepen counter-terrorism partnerships through  improved information sharing, port and aviation security, and to uphold international best practices in detecting and combating money laundering and financing of terrorism. The US and Philippine governments will construct and operate a state-of-the-art counter-terrorism training facility on the grounds of the PNP Academy, Cavite, Philippines.

In the BSD statement, the Philippines expressed appreciation for the return of the Bells of Balangiga, a gesture that reaffirmed mutual respect and friendship. The US  announced a new "Philippines-U.S. Alliance Fellowship" for young Philippine scholars and an exchange visitor program supporting opportunities for Filipino teachers in the US. A ten-year Science and Technology agreement was signed to promote collaboration on capacity-building in areas of public health, marine sciences, environmental protection, disaster risk resilience, climate change, renewable energy, and STEM education.

Following the BSD, the 2019 Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board met on September 13, led by  U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander  Adm David Philip Davidson and Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal, Jr . T he meetings resulted in more than 300 planned security cooperation activities for 2020.   
Trade and Investment Overview by AmCham Senior Adviser

John Forbes
L-R: Eddie Lachica, USPHS President Amb John F. Maisto, John Forbes, Stimson Center Director Brian Eyler, USPHS Executive Director Hank Hendrickson. Stimson Center, Washington, D.C.

On July 19, visiting Senior Adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and US-Philippines Society member John D. Forbes presented a comprehensive update on the trade and investment outlook for American businesses operating in the Philippines.

"U.S. companies' longstanding presence in the Philippines has endured through the ups and downs of the 20th century," Forbes noted. American companies and regional subsidiaries invest and commit to improving local operations and employing from a pool of local talent. Two American firms, Amkor Technology and Texas Instruments, are among the largest exporters in terms of value in the semi-conductor and electronics industry.
The business processing operations (BPO) industry that began 25 years ago employs over 1.2 million Filipinos. US companies, including IBM, Convergys, Accenture, and JP Morgan Chase Bank are among the leading BPO companies in the Philippines. Growth in the Philippine BPO  services industry has benefited from a  highly educated workforce, smooth integration with global markets, and competitive labor costs.  
Forbes cited the Trust Rating Survey through June 2019 that shows the U.S. as the most trusted country by Filipinos spiking at +73 percent, Japan at +43 per cent and China as least trusted at -24 per cent.

In exports of goods, the Philippines lags behind other leading ASEAN economies.  A  slowing global economy has weakened external demand for exports of goods, services, raw materials and components. Agriculture is growing, although that sector accounts for less than 10 per cent of total GDP. Agribusiness is a bright spot with potential for growth and expansion. 

The American Chamber of Commerce, along with other foreign chambers, submitted to President Duterte and the new 18th Congress a joint statement in support of legislative reform bills that aim to improve the Philippine economy and its international competitiveness and job creation. Topping the  list of priority bills are amendments to the Public Service Act, Tax Reform Bill 2, Foreign Investment Act amendments and Retail Trade Act amendments. 

Director General Ramesh Subramaniam and DCM Patrick Chuasoto
ADB Commitments in the PH 

In an August 29 meeting with the US-Philippines Society and the Philippine Embassy,  Ramesh Subramaniam, Director General of ADB's Southeast Asia department, described the $2.75 billion Malolos-Clark Railway project in the Philippines as ADB's single largest infrastructure project financing. Despite signs of a global economic slowdown, ADB remains optimistic about the Philippine infrastructure program, "Build Build Build." Headquartered in Manila, ADB assists its members and partners by providing loans, technical assistance, grants, and equity investments to promote social and economic development.
Vitug at Asia Foundation
Post Mid-Term Elections Landscape

At a July 25 forum in Washington DC, award-winning author Marites Vitug presented an informed view on the political outcome of the mid-term elections, 2022 presidential prospects and legislative priorities of the 18th congress at an event co-organized by US-Philippines Society and the Asia Foundation. 

Photo: Executive Director Hank Hendrickson, Marites Vitug, Associate Director Anna Bantug-Herrera of Asia Foundation and President Ambassador John F. Maisto.
Islamic Finance
Atty Arifa Ala is joined by Amb John Maisto and Deputy Director Brian Harding of Center for Strategic and International Studies
Islamic Finance and Development

On September 26, Philippine Central Bank Managing Director Atty Arifa Ala described how Islamic banking can facilitate business growth, especially in sensitive "un-banked" areas of the southern Philippines. The forum, in partnership with CSIS, traced developments, including the ongoing transition to Bangsamoro autonomy and enactment of a new Islamic Banking law, and provided insights into implementing regulations that will guide Islamic banking operations. Atty Ala described how Sharia-consistent banking can complement the Philippines' traditional banking system and deliver more services to needy areas of the South.

A View from Indigenous Communities in Mindanao  

Representing the Mandaya and Manobo Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao, eight community leaders visited the United States to share their perspectives on the impact of an ongoing, low-level conflict in the southern Philippines between the Communist New People's Army and the government. During their final stop in Washington, D.C. on July 19, the delegation provided a first-hand account of how the conflict has affected communities in areas of eastern Mindanao at a forum held at the Philippine Embassy. The IP leaders briefed members of the US-Philippines Society, along with representatives of U.S. government agencies, and academics.

Datu Bawan Jacob Lanes (center) Mandaya community ranking member and IP Spokesperson
Dialogue with Secretary Locsin on US-Philippines Relations

US-Philippines Society Co-chair Ambassador John D. Negroponte moderated a September 19 Capitol Hill Luncheon Dialogue with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. The event was hosted by the US-Asia Institute. 

Photo: Congressman Ted Yoho (FL), Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Amb John Negroponte, Amb Jose M. Romualdez and US-Asia Institute Chairman Glenn Lau-Kee
Kaiser Permanente
US-Philippines Society Executive Director Hank Hendrickson
Presentation to East Asia Group

On September 3, US-Philippines Society Executive Director Hank Hendrickson gave a presentation on political and foreign policy trends in the Philippines at mid-term, and implications for US-Philippine relations to members of the Far East Luncheon group,  a  distinguished   professional association, held at the DACOR Bacon House, Washington DC. 

Brian Buzzell
Members of the Miltary Order of the Carabao and the Armed Forces of the Philippines with Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez
MoA on an Educational Benefit Program for AFP Dependents

On August 13, the Military Order of the Carabao represented by Captain Charles B. Dixon, USN (ret) and the AFP Educational Benefit System represented by Defense Attaché BGEN Marlo Guloy signed a Memorandum of Agreement on an Educational Benefit Program that supports educational expenses of dependents of Philippine military personnel. Military Order of the Carabao Executive Council members Capt. David M. Jackson and David F. Graling and US-Philippines Society member Brian Buzzell joined the ceremony held at the Philippine Embassy.

On September 24, "Liwanag: A Journey through a Philippine Way of Life," an art exhibit by renowned Filipino-Spanish artist Maria Mari Murga also featuring Mindanao craftmakers, was successfully launched at the Lobby Gallery of the Philippine Center in New York City. The opening night was attended by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, US-Philippines Society director and Honorary Consul  Henry B. Howard, a supporter of the exhibit, and Foreign Affairs  Undersecretaries Enrique Manalo and Brigido Dulay. Mr. Luca Parolari of the Pintô Museum, art enthusiasts and members of the Filipino-American community attended.

The exhibition will travel to Washington DC for public viewing November 18-26 at the Philippine Chancery Annex with an opening night on November 15. 

PH Consulate NYC
L-R: Exhibit curator Leif Miguel Martinez, Maria Mari Murga, Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez and US-Philippines Society Director Henry B. Howard, Philippine Center, New York City. Photo credit: Philippine Consulate