US-Philippines – a complicated relationship status?
John Santeo Tamayo, INK
February 13, 2017, Valentine’s eve – ENACT opened a conversation with United States Embassy Economic Officer Pete Davis on the “relationship status of the Philippines and the US.” ENACT is the student co-curricular organization of the Department of Saemaul Studies and Economic Development (DSSED).
Mr. Davis’ talk at the New Library, dubbed as “Employing the Economist in You: Understanding the PH-US Economic Relations”, attracted several Enderun students amidst a recurring curiosity. No less than the Enderun President Edgardo Rodriguez graced the occasion.
In view of the recent, abrupt changes in the policies of both the US and the Philippines, Andre Feliciano, the ENACT Internals VP who personally invited Mr. Davis, said, “The role of public opinion in the formation of government policy cannot be ignored. We therefore stress the need for a well-informed public especially regarding its effects on the economy.”
“The United States has been diplomatically engaged with the Philippines for a very long time,” Mr. Davis affirmed, “beyond anything else, it is our people-to-people relationship involving 300,000 Americans in the Philippines and 3 million Filipinos in the US. On the business side, US companies have been investing in the Philippines since the early 1900’s.”
He cited Convergys, employing 40% of its workforce from the Philippines, and Texas Instruments, serving as the Philippines’ top exporter (from Clark, Pampanga) with local manpower.
Concerning the economy, Mr. Davis noted, “The Philippine economy has a distinctive quality – an economy driven to a large extent by spending and consumption. All of these growth indicators are attributed to the remittances of OFWs and the BPO industry which you observe to be thriving around here in McKinley.”
He pointed out that the large cash resources coming into the country go to real estate, car loans, and retail operations, among others. This explains why there is so much construction and infrastructure development in the metropolis, more brand new cars along busy thoroughfares, and the richest people in the Philippines coming from the ranks of retailers and not industrialists who traditionally run big factories.
This, however, does not stop the US from extending assistance to the country through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He assured that the USAID and the US Embassy in Manila will continue to provide grants, strategic partnerships, and policy recommendations.
Among these recommendations, Mr. Davis suggested that the Philippine government ease conditions for foreign investments, particularly the constitutional provision on the foreign ownership of domestic businesses. He believes, moreover, that in the telecommunication industry, competition can significantly improve services to the Filipino consumers. Of course, he emphasized the need to always guard against money laundering and red tape, and to increase government transparency.
Having served on three consular assignments, and about to complete his 3-year tour of duty in the Philippines, Mr. Davis described how elated he was to have worked in our country.