By ANTONIO S. LOPEZ
In his week-long visit to the United States, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. had a remarkable virtuoso performance on his debut on the world stage.
Meeting the Filipino community in New Jersey upon his arrival on Sept. 19, 2022, he invited Filipinos to come, and invest in the Philippines. “Buy houses,” he told Pinoy Americans who mobbed him like a rock star.
According to Rep. Joey Salceda, the best way for Filipinos to get rich quickly is to buy homes whose values appreciate much higher than inflation and the peso devaluation. That’s how 77% of the wealth of Americans and the English is created, he points out.
US Pinoys biggest remitters
With 4.2 million Filipino Americans (they make three times more than the average American), the US is the largest source of OFW remittances to the Philippines. Pinoy Americans remit $7 billion yearly out of the $32 billion total OFW remittances.
On Sept. 20, Marcos Jr. rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, a rare privilege for a visitor. Addressing the world’s savviest –and greediest—investors, the President said the Philippines has bounced back from the pandemic with robust growth towards making Filipinos upper middle income in six years or less.
The government has reformed the rules for business. The corporate income tax has been lowered, business permits are easier to get, paid-up capital for foreign retailers has been lowered, and full foreign ownership is now allowed in companies in telco, shipping, airlines, railways, airports, and toll roads.
The US is the Philippines’ third largest trading partner and the second biggest source of recent foreign investments.
PH an investment destination
The Philippines is an attractive investment destination. It offers high-quality labor, a large consumer market, and a huge plethora of incentives—tax and non-fiscal. The BBM administration, the President said, is committed to maintaining sound macroeconomic fundamentals and providing a clear development roadmap, with a GDP growth rate of 6.5-7.5% in 2023, and 6.5 to 8% per year until 2028.
At the NYSE, Marcos Jr paraded his private sector CEO advisers led by Sabin Aboitiz, the CEO of the power, property, infra, and industrial conglomerate Aboitiz Group.
“I have witnessed the ability of this man to bring together the best minds in business, use them to find real solutions to real problems, and then immediately implement them like he was flipping a switch,” Sabin said of his friend and boss, BBM. Marcos’s inclusive and collaborative leadership, Aboitiz enthused, “will transform the Philippine economy into the Next Big Thing in Asia.”
The highlight of Marcos’s week-long American sojourn was, of course, the address before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which convened for the first time for a face-to-face meeting since 2019. More than 140 world leaders were to speak before the world’s greatest debating society and policy-making body.
BBM was the second of 19 speakers, in the afternoon of the first plenary day of debates. He was the second speaker. In a serious but purposeful voice, he delivered a 2,410-word speech in 21 minutes.
“I see four challenges to the continued survival of our global community,” he told the UNGA. These are: 1) climate change; 2) technology which is rapidly transforming human life and experience; 3) geopolitical realities as epitomized by the Russia-Ukraine war and the US-China rivalry in the Asia Pacific; and 4) inequalities and inequities within and among countries.
The Philippines contributes only 0.40% to total global pollution, yet, it is the Top Four risks due to climate change. With the earth warming by one degree Celsius every ten years, a third of Philippine coastal areas could sink in half a century, or less. The world’s biggest polluters are China 25%, US 18%, and Europe 17%.
Appeal to polluters
Marcos pleaded to these polluters: “We call on the industrialized countries to immediately fulfill their obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, provide climate financing and technology transfer for adaptation for the most vulnerable and developing countries to lead by example.”
The threat of warming “knows no borders, no social class, nor any geopolitical consideration,” the President said.
Meanwhile, “the imminent diffusion of the emerging technologies could solve many of our old problems,” Marcos said, “but could also disrupt our political and social orders.”
As to global conflicts, the Filipino leader told the UN, “Our very charter is being violated around the world as we speak. In Asia, our hard-won peace and stability is under threat by increasing strategic and ideological tensions.”
Finally, injustice everywhere. Marcos noted, “this injustice was evident during the pandemic when the richer nations immediately received vaccines at the expense of the have-nots. We see, for example, dangers of this lurking in the persistent digital divide and in ballooning debt burdens.”
The President pleaded before his fellow world leaders:
“As we awaken from the economic stupor caused by the pandemic, we must reinvigorate the world economy. We must use public and private resources to encourage the expansion of trade, investment, and technology transfers to accelerate development. Knowledge and intellectual gains must flow freely to allow those lagging behind to catch up. Sustainable development will be hampered, to the detriment of all, if existing structures in the global economy remain unreformed.”
If the world is a stage, our President has done well with theatrics and genuine gestures. Kudos to him, his cabinet team, and the 30 or so CEOs who accompanied him in his journey of discovery, reconnection, and reconciliation with the country that ousted his father from 20 years of power.
Said Bongbong of the mother country: “America is a steady partner.” Washington DC should find in the young Marcos a solid if cautious ally. President Biden knows that. He met the Philippine leader on the sidelines of the UN debates. A formal state visit is being arranged in early 2023.
The BBM caravan is expected to be back in Manila on or before Sept. 27, Tuesday.