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US, PH widen trade, economic ties, Biden to send investment mission

• $7.5m energy deal

• $65m electric motorcycles pact

President Marcos introduces Speaker Martin Romualdez who accompanied him during the bilateral meeting with President Biden that was followed by an expanded dialog with Cabinet officials of both leaders. 

Washington—US President Joe Biden said he will send a “first of its kind” presidential trade and investment mission to the Philippines as he and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expanded their countries’ agricultural, trade, and even nuclear ties following their bilateral meeting at the White House on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).

The US leader noted Manila and Washington’s “strong partnership” and “deep friendship, one that has been enriched by millions of Filipino-Americans and the communities all across the United States.”

Mr. Biden also committed to stepping up America’s support to the Philippines on a wide range of issues, including climate change mitigation and the economy.

Mr. Marcos, in turn, thanked the US leader for America’s assistance as he sought to strengthen “alliances and partnership in the face of the new economy that we are facing post-pandemic.”

Trade relations and the partnership between the Philippines and the US must be “continually revisited” so that both parties would mutually benefit from these initiatives, Mr. Marcos also noted during the dinner hosted by the Philippine Embassy at the Blair House for the President, his official delegation and key US cabinet officials.

The Chief Executive said Mr. Biden has been “extremely” supportive of the Philippines in terms of economic transformation, among others.

This led to “a picture of a brighter future for US-Philippines relations,” Speaker Martin G. Romualdez said in describing the historic meeting between Mr. Marcos Jr. and Mr. Biden at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Romualdez said optimism is at its highest for the country’s economic growth due to an evidently strengthened US-PHL relation.

“We have found a wellspring of new hope for the Filipino people as President Biden and President Marcos Jr. discuss plans for a brighter future together. With a first-ever presidential trade and investment mission on the horizon, the Philippines can expect job creation and economic growth,” said the Speaker, who personally witnessed the historic meeting at the White House.

Romualdez also noted the Philippines already gained a “considerable windfall” in the initial stage of the official visit of Mr. Marcos.

It starts with the two countries agreeing to establish a ministerial team on agricultural cooperation as the Marcos administration focuses on food efficiency and security.

The partnership was sealed during a meeting between President Marcos and US Department of Agriculture officials led by Secretary Thomas Vilsack.

Mr. Marcos also gained a sizable investment from the top nuclear energy firm based in the United States, which expressed interest to invest in the Philippines after their roundtable meeting.

NuScale is expected to invest $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion to provide 430 megawatts to the country by 2031.

The Philippines’ richest man, Enrique Razon, representing his Prime Infrastructure Capital, Inc. (Prime Infra), accompanied NuScale officials as their local partner to the meeting with the President.

Razon, also the chairman and CEO of the Manila-listed company International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), has been investing heavily on building assets through Prime Infra to support energy infrastructure, access to clean water, and waste management, among others.

In the meeting, Oregon-based NuScale Power Corp. revealed its plans to locate a site in the Philippines, as the firm is known for developing a small nuclear power system described as safe, modular, and scalable.

Mr. Marcos said the country “essentially has a shortfall in power supply” and the support of NuScale would help address this issue.

Clayton Scott, NuScale executive vice president for business, said the company has “very high confidence that our technology will perform as expected.”

The firm has existing projects in Utah, Romania, Indonesia, and Poland, providing safe, reliable, and cost-competitive clean energy to consumers.

The President also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc. of the Ayala Group and California-based Zero Motorcycles on a partnership to manufacture electric motorcycles, which are gaining popularity worldwide.

Under the partnership, the US-based firm will lead the way in setting up the first electronic vehicle (EV) motorcycle manufacturing site in the Philippines.

IMI will assemble Zero’s electric motorcycle models as well as other assemblies in its facility in Laguna in conjunction with the manufacturing facilities for Zero in California (see full story on Business page B4 – Editors).

“It is a promising partnership for progress and prosperity. What will follow is renewed confidence in the Philippines when it comes to investments, not only from the United States but from the rest of the world as well. This is a powerful message, seeing the two leaders discuss prosperity for our people,” Romualdez added of the Marcos-Biden meeting.

“This high-level trade and investment mission from the US will add more momentum to sustain our country’s economic growth and help establish the Philippines as a hub for investments and as a regional supply chain hub,” the Speaker added.

“Such bilateral economic engagement with the US will not only generate more jobs and business opportunities for our people but, more importantly, it would focus on sectors critical to ensuring a resilient supply chain to avert the recurrence of serious disruptions that wreaked havoc in the economies of many countries in the past few years,” he said.

Mr. Biden told Mr. Marcos in their historic Oval Office meeting: “We’re tackling climate change, we’re accelerating our countries’ chances… and we’re standing up for our shared democratic values and workers’ rights… and together we’re deepening our economic cooperation.”

The meeting also included discussions on national security, education, and other initiatives as part of Mr. Marcos’ five-day official visit to Washington (see banner story – Editors).

Philippine Cabinet officials and their US counterparts also met with Mr. Marcos and Mr. Biden in an expanded bilateral meeting at the White House.

Among the Philippine officials who attended the meeting were National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Antonio Yulo Loyzaga, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, Migrant Workers Department Secretary Maria Susana “Toots” Ople, and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.

Mr. Marcos is also set to visit the Pentagon and meet more US Cabinet executives and business leaders during his stay in Washington.

On agriculture, the President described as important the meeting with the USDA “simply because there are things that we are hoping to be able to partner with the United States when it comes to the agricultural sector.”

Mr. Marcos noted the “weaknesses that we had discovered during the lockdowns during the pandemic, at the height of the pandemic, and the shortages in food supply.”

Assigning himself the agriculture portfolio was crucial, the President remarked, “because agriculture is a very complicated issue, especially in the Philippines.”

He sought to bolster mutually beneficial agreements to strengthen agriculture research for development, capacity-building initiatives specific to the advancement of biotechnology agenda in the country and expand market access of Philippine agricultural products to the US.

The USDA, for its part, also looked forward to strengthening the knowledge transfer between the US and the Philippines as well as their continued cooperation on agriculture innovation systems.

The President also expressed hope that the upcoming Food Security Dialogue on May 5 will boost cooperation on capacity-building and technology support as the country works together in building effective and efficient supply chains, export, and value-chain development of agricultural commodities.

Joining the President in that meeting were Speaker Romualdez, Trade Secretary Pascual, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo Jr., Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil, and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.

As for the House of Representatives, Romualdez said they will do everything to pass legislation that will allow and encourage the free facilitation of the trade investments that will result from the US presidential trade mission.

“This is our mandate and promise to the Filipino people: we will make sure that whatever investments we shall obtain from this mission shall find fertile ground in our economy. We will ensure that these will benefit millions of Filipino citizens,” the Speaker said.

The lawmaker from Leyte’s first district earlier laid the groundwork for the official visit of President Marcos to the US through a series of meetings and engagements with his counterparts in the country, as well as with private business leaders.


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