A GROUP of United States (US) businessmen recently made a five-day visit to the Philippines as it explored trade and investment opportunities in the country.
Led by California State Assembly Member Rob Bonta, a 23-member delegation of the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce (CalAsian) looked at the country’s energy and gaming industries.
The group’s potential ventures into the country is being assisted by the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands (CCPI) with which CalAsian signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop and promote trade relations while pushing for technical cooperation between the members of the two chambers.
“There were some early interest in alternative energy, like solar. There might be some opportunities in gaming with some of the casinos and gaming businesses that are here. There were some preconceived notions about where, but we came with an open mind to see where the best fits were,” Bonta said.
Bonta, who is the first Filipino-American elected to the California State Assembly, added that they also see a growing opportunity in the country’s agriculture and infrastructure industries as learned from their discussions with officials of the US Embassy.
Bonta, who chairs the Assembly Health Committee and the Public Employee Retirement Systems Committee in California, also commented on the country’s pension program.
“I believe in defined benefits, in a true pension which is different from a defined contribution, where you put in the money but you do not necessarily know what your return is. But you have to plan for it. It is difficult. The market changes. Your investments need to be sound and you need to plan for the anticipated rate of return. It needs to be conservative but accurate, and everyone needs to put in enough contributions,” Bonta said.
He added: “It can be done, but you need to plan right and a shared responsibility approach is the best. Not pointing the finger on the employee saying you need to put more in by yourselves or telling the government that you must do it. But both saying how can we solve this problem.”
President Duterte has made clear his support of increased pension for senior citizens. It is a complete turnaround from the position of former President Benigno Aquino III, when he vetoed the bill allowing for a P2,000 hike in pension benefits citing potential bankruptcy on the part of the Social Security System.
Aside from the CCPI, Bonta and CalAsian also met with officials of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
Having been founded in 1886, the CCPI is recognized as the oldest business institution in the country. The chamber provides governmental relations, business matching, networking, education and training for its members nationwide.
CalAsian regularly holds trade missions to the Asia-Pacific region, where it has a large network and contacts with government agencies and industries. They see the region as having close cultural and ethnic affinity with their members.
Image credits: Roy Domingo