PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Saturday returned to the country after his working visit to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (WEF), promising to bring new investment opportunities for the Philippines to “fruition” that would allow it to “position” itself so that it is ready “to respond to the needs of the new global economy.”
In his arrival speech, the President reported the progress they have made during his trip which he said, “has yielded beneficial outcomes relative to new trade and investment opportunities, and key partnerships forged to support our development program, a better appreciation for Filipino workers and professionals, and the promise of increased level of cooperation with various countries around the world.”
“We now will be working to consolidate and develop these contacts and discussions that we have begun. The measure of success will be how much of this we can bring to fruition. That process has begun, and we will continue until we see the final results of these endeavors,” he said.
During the visit, Marcos said he was joined by leaders from the Philippine business community and took part in several activities “to help promote partnerships with our private sector economic leaders.”
He also met with key executives of companies such as DP World, Glencore, and Morgan Stanley, which he said, “incidentally is going to be now [and] because of investor confidence is going to open an office here in the Philippines.”
Marcos said the business meetings “held promise [of] new investments in many of our economic sectors including mining and processing, digital solutions, logistics, telecommunications, and renewable fuel, amongst others, and will enable our companies to participate deeper in global value chains.”
“The process that we undertook really in Davos was not simply to highlight the new situation, the new economic situation, the new policies, and the new concepts that we are promoting in the Philippines today but also to learn from the world leaders and the world economic leaders what part the Philippines can play in this fragmented world,” the President said.
“That was the main theme in this entire forum is how do we bring back cooperation in a fragmented world. And we are seen to play a part in that and especially as a member state of Asean and as a leading economy in Asia,” he added.
Marcos said the trip is also “fairly unique for the medium to long term goodwill and interest we have generated for our country, our enterprises, and our people.”
“Through the multi-stakeholder platform provided by [the] World Economic Forum, the Philippines is able to articulate and exchange views on pressing issues that impact on the lives and livelihood of all Filipinos,” he said.
He also said that his WEF engagement has enabled the many leaders and experts in government, in business, civil organization, and in the academe that were in attendance to receive the good news that the Philippines “is leading economic recovery and performance not only in the Asia-Pacific but also in the whole world.”
“That the Philippines is not only driving economic growth; we are also helping mend the fissures that have fragmented the world of late and doing our part to avert an economic crisis,” he said.
Marcos said he also drew attention to the Philippines’ work across trade and investment, monetary and fiscal policies, food and energy security, climate action, structural reforms, digitalization, public-private partnerships, health and nutrition, education, and other social services.
He also highlighted this administration’s policies, including the Philippine Development Plan, the 8-Point Socioeconomic Agenda, and various other policies and legislations that spotlight the economic reforms of the Philippines that have led to our sustained growth, even post Covid-19 and amidst the current global economic downturn.
Marcos also discussed the country’s budget, strategies, policies, programs and projects for climate-resilient infrastructure and our flagship “Build, Better, More,” and our active policies toward public-private partnerships and other forms of collaboration in infrastructure, which he said, “is toward the fulfillment of a resilient, inclusive and sustainable infrastructure ecosystem for the Philippines.”
The President said he also had the opportunity to meet and exchange views with a few leaders of countries and organizations, such as WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank Managing Director for Operations Axel Van Trotsenburg, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, and former UK prime minister Tony Blair, “to align and agree to push for common priorities and support the multilateral trading system to benefit all.”
“I took the opportunity as well to consult with our friends and partners in Davos on the sovereign wealth fund as a means for us to diversify our income sources, and to generate various welfare effects to the Filipino people, while recognizing that this is a collaborative work with experts and our lawmakers so that its final form is what we intend it to be,” Marcos said.
“And that discussion about the sovereign wealth fund, the Maharlika Fund, was an interactive one wherein not only did we present our ideas on what the fund should look like but we asked them what do you think would be most advantageous for the Philippines so as to allow the potential investments that you are thinking about bringing into the Philippines and how the fund would be best designed to service that investment,” he added.
‘Positioning’ for new global economy
Meanwhile, Marcos defended his participation in the WEF, saying the Philippines is “positioning” itself so that it is ready “to respond to the needs of the new global economy.”
The President made this remark amid critics who branded his trip as “lavish.”
Speaking to journalists who covered his visit here, Marcos said the Philippines’ participation in the WEF is vital to seal important deals and enhance strategic investments and partnerships with key economic leaders, including the chief executive officers (CEOs) of Fortune 100 companies.
“Again, you know, this is a process. You don’t go one time and you come home and you know, everybody is going to invest $1 trillion already. Hindi ganun (It isn’t like that). We have to introduce them to the Philippines again. We have to ask them to come to them to come to the Philippines, send the team to make assessments on the business side et cetera. And then eventually kung magkaintindihan, magkakaroon ng bagong investment (if we reach an agreement, we will get new investments),” Marcos said.
“So this is how it works, and so that’s why the conference was important because you meet the CEOs of the top 100 — Fortune 100 companies here. And you also run into other heads of state and heads of the World Bank, the IMF. It’s all about the economy, the global economy itong (this) Davos,” he added.
When asked to comment about the inclusion of Speaker Martin Romualdez and Sen. Mark Villar, the President said that the two lawmakers were there to explain the country’s policies or if potential investors have concerns about Philippine laws.
“We have to present members of the legislature because of all of these changes in policy that we are talking about. We have the legislators here who can say: ‘Well, we can do something about it,’ or, ‘No, that is important to us that we maintain it,” Marcos said.
“Because legislation is an important part of what we are doing. So there’s always a legislator. And in the case of former president GMA (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo), we’re lucky to have her on board,” he added.
The President said he brought a large delegation to the WEF but noted that half of the people who went with him were from the private sector.
“The delegation was large. But half of it was private. They came here on their own, stayed in their own places, made their own arrangements. Although they are technically part of the delegation,” Marcos explained.
Marcos also said his delegation essentially just consisted of the Cabinet secretaries, aside from Romualdez, Arroyo and their support staff.
With regards to the use of Philippine Airlines flight PR001, the President said it didn’t matter how many people boarded it because the pay was the same.
His economic managers had said that Marcos has accomplished a lot in his participation in the WEF, particularly by telling the Philippines’ success story and encouraging investors to come to the country.
Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said the President’s WEF attendance aroused investors’ interest in areas such as digital economy, minerals processing, logistics and transport, as well as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) operations.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, meanwhile, said from the perspective of key decision-makers abroad, they would want to hear where the Philippines stands at the moment.
WEF President Børge Brende had lauded the Philippines for its high gross domestic product growth, surpassing other countries in Southeast Asia.
In a meeting with the Filipino community in Zurich, Marcos expressed satisfaction over the accomplishments of his official delegation during and on the sidelines of the WEF.
The President also heaped praises on the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for their crucial role in painting a good picture of the Philippines and thanked them for their hard work and contributions to the development of the Philippine economy.
He assured OFWs that the government, through the Department of Migrant Workers, would continue to provide assistance to them.
We are open for business
Romualdez said the President effectively marketed the country as a major investment destination to visitors of the notable international conference.
“The substantial delegation actually demonstrated how the Philippines, the President, his official family, the economic managers, and the top businessmen and women showed a united front to the entire world. It really impressed them and was not lost in Davos,” Romualdez said.
“So people took notice of it and said that it’s obvious that the Philippines is back. We are open for business; we are here listening, and we are inviting everyone to see why the Philippines would be the best destination to invest,” he added.