President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., the country’s 17th head of state, celebrates his 65th birthday today, almost a week after returning from his “fruitful” and “engaging” inaugural state visits to Indonesia and Singapore with P804.78 billion in investments.
Marcos said he signed and sealed 10 Letters of Intent and 12 MOUs or (memorandum of understanding) in the sectors of renewable energy, data centers, e-commerce, broadband technology, start-ups, government housing and agriculture and witnessed the signing of several letters of intent and MOUs from 22 Indonesian and Singaporean investors.
“These investments, if we put it all together, value US$14.36 billion or P804.78 billion. This will support our country’s economic recovery efforts and create more jobs for Filipinos here in our country,” Marcos said.
Of the total amount of investments, the President brought home US$8.48 billion or P466.6 billion worth of business deals from Indonesia and US$6.54 billion or P374.57 billion from Singapore.
Marcos thanked the governments of both Indonesia and Singapore for the opportunity to reaffirm their friendship and explore avenues of cooperation that will benefit their respective countries.
“Indeed, my back-to-back visits to Indonesia and Singapore I think have been thoroughly worthwhile,” he said.
Just the beginning
Although these investment deals were just the “beginning” of foreign investors’ interest to invest in the Philippines, he said his administration would work had to bring the agreements to fruition.
He also said the government would “not stop” until the ordinary Filipino can feel these economic goals.
“We are all now going to bend ourselves to this work. We will not stop until we can come back and say, these MOUs, these Letters of Intent now have results,” he said.
Additionally, Marcos assured overseas Filipino workers in Indonesia, Singapore, and other parts of the world, that his administration would “take care” of them.
“Even if they are no longer in the Philippines, our government will make sure that we will still take care of them. Our kababayans continue to be a source of pride as they demonstrate to the world that Filipinos excel at whatever endeavor they choose to undertake,” he said.
He also thanked them for their continued support and thrust, which he said continues to motivate him to do his best as the country’s leader.
Marcos marked his inaugural state visits in Indonesia from September 4 to 6 and Singapore from September 6 to September 7.
During his trip to Indonesia, Marcos said he and President Joko Widodo witnessed the signing of the agreements on defense, security, creative economy and culture.
Both governments also agreed to pursue joint activities for the next five years after their respective foreign ministers signed the Philippines-Indonesia Plan of Action for 2022 to 2027, which lays out the priorities and concrete ways forward for bilateral cooperation.
They also renewed their commitment to stronger bilateral cooperation as fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and members of the two largest maritime nations in the world.
Marcos and Widodo discussed the delimitation of boundaries respective to Philippine and Indonesian continental shelves, which he hoped could become a template for resolving conflicting claims.
The two leaders also tackled importing fertilizers into the Philippines and increasing coal imports for energy supply.
Marcos also expressed excitement in the celebration of 75 years of official diplomatic friendship between the two countries in 2024.
In summary, the following were the agreements entered into between the Philippines and Indonesia:
- US$7 billion in infrastructure, unsolicited private-public partnerships such as the C5 four-level elevated expressway;
- US$822 million in investments in textile, garments, renewable energy, satellite gateway, wire global technology and agrifood;
- US$622 million in trade value supply of coal and fertilizer;
- Plan of action between the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of the Philippines from 2022 to 2027;
- MOU between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines on Cultural Cooperation;
- Agreement on Cooperative Activities in the Field of Defense and Security between the Government and the Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines; and
- MOU for the cooperation in the Development and Promotion of the Creative Economy between the Government and the Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.
While in Singapore, Marcos and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong witnessed the signing and exchange of agreements on counterterrorism, personal data protection, digital cooperation, water resource management and investment.
Marcos also met with members of the different business communities to explain his administration’s policies and economic priorities to promote the Philippines as an investment destination.
He said Singaporean President Halimah Yacob spoke highly of her state visit to the Philippines in 2019 in celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations.
Marcos said he and Lee also “made a connection” because their fathers, who were past leaders of their respective countries, laid the groundwork for the foundation of Asean starting in 1967.
The following were the agreements reached between Singapore and the Philippines countries:
- US$5 billion in transportation (electronic tricycles);
- US$1.2 billion in renewable energy (floating solar panels);
- US$200 million in information technology (data center);
- US$10 million to US$100 million in the blue economy (marine renewable energy, water production, desalination, electric boats, aquaculture);
- US$20 million for innovation platform for start-ups;
- US$20 million for women in technology;
- Arrangement Concerning the Assignment of a Team to the Regional Counter-Terrorism Information Facility in Singapore between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Singapore Armed Forces;
- MOU in the Field of Digital Cooperation between the Department of Information and Communication Technology of the Philippines and the Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore;
- MOU for collaboration on the development of New Clark City between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) of the Philippines and Enterprise Singapore;
- Renewal of the MOU on Cooperation in Personal Data Protection between the National Privacy Commission of the Philippines and the Personal Data Protection Commission of Singapore; and
- Renewal of the MOU on Water Collaboration between the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System of the Philippines and the Public Utilities Board of Singapore.
According to Marcos, his trips to Indonesia and Singapore offered an opportunity to exchange views with the leaders on important regional and global issues that affect security in the region.
“We were cognizant of our roles as neighbors and partners in Asea. We all shared the view that in this time of geopolitical turmoil and uncertainty, unity, mutual respect, and the principle of sovereign equality should always prevail in our efforts to uphold peace and stability and an environment conducive to our continued national development,” he said.
Marcos and his economic team met with Indonesia and Singapore investors and urged them to invest in the country.
Deputy House Speaker Ralph Recto noted that the President’s state visits yield investment pledges are valued “thousands of times” the travel budget of the Office of the President (OP).
According to Recto, the P804.78 billion worth of investment commitments Marcos brought home dwarfed the P157 million local and foreign travel allocation of the OP from June to December of this year.
“Just one trip and a return of investment was already realized,” Recto said
“Under President BBM, the OP’s share of total government travel budget this year of P20.22 billion is very small. It’s only 77 centavos out of P100,” he said.
As the number of Covid-19 cases decrease and boarders open, Recto said “zoom diplomacy should shift to face-to-face engagements – unless one is a fan of North Korea.”
He said the President is better off promoting the country’s interest “across the table, in a room than remotely via a TV screen.”
As the country grapples with the combined blows of the pandemic and the food and fuel shocks unleashed by the war in Ukraine, “many of the solutions to these problems lie outside our shores.”
Recto cited the country’s need for fertilizers which “the President’s trip to Jakarta gave him the opportunity to personally ask Indonesian President Widodo to allocate more for the Philippines,”
One in six sacks of fertilizer sold in the country comes from Indonesia, Recto said.
Because global prices for fertilizer have skyrocketed by as much as 300 percent over the past year, the country’s “fertilizer vulnerability” could cause the rice harvest to plunge, triggering the need for more rice imports,” Recto said.
“That’s the reason why the President made this special request to Widodo because he knows how important fertilizer is to our country,” he said.
Next stop – the US
Later this month, Marcos is scheduled to speak before the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He also plans to hold several bilateral meetings with other heads of state.
During a recent online media forum, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said Marcos is preparing a speech for the event.
“This is the time he will be addressing the United Nations, which is basically introducing himself to the world in the Western world, especially, and secondly, to have more economic business meetings that will bring in investments into the Philippines,” he said.
Marcos’ main thrust in relationships with other countries, especially with the United States, is to have more economic activity, he added.
Romualdez said several meetings have been planned between Marcos and business councils and potential companies that would like to invest or expand their business operations in the country.
When asked if Marcos will address human rights issues raised by groups in the US, Romualdez said the President made it clear that he would like the Philippine National Police to continue the operations against illegal drug activities.
“But at the same time, following the rule of law, which is very important. We all know that this is part of the contentious issues that have been raised against the Philippines,” he said.
“This government of President Marcos has clearly set out the role that our police officers would have to do following the rule of law and making sure that they will use restrain. And if I might add, I think that the other thing that he would like to implement very strongly is to have more rehabilitation areas,” Romualdez said.
With reports from Sam Medenilla and Philippine News Agency.
Image credits: FB page of PBBM