Our workforce is our greatest asset — BBM

When I’m asked why do you have such a bright view of the future? And my answer is always that there are 110 million Filipinos that are working towards the same goal and that I still believe our workforce is still our greatest asset

Taking the bull by the horns President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. sought the support of American investors at the New York Stock Exchange Economic Forum on his second day in the United States, citing his administration’s steps in opening up the Philippine economy to welcome more foreign investments. | photograph courtesy of PBBM fb

September 21, 2022

MANHATTAN, New York — On the second day of on Tuesday his trip to the United States, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. enticed prospective foreign investors to do business in the Philippines by offering his “decisive leadership” and his government’s “sound policies.”

These factors, he said, kept the Philippine economy “resilient” despite external headwinds.

Speaking before US-based business leaders at the New York Stocks Exchange building, the Filipino leader said the Philippine government is gearing up to “transform” the country into an upper-middle income country and achieve the “A” territory credit ratings.

“When I’m asked why do you have such a bright view of the future? And my answer is always that there are 110 million Filipinos that are working towards the same goal and that I still believe our workforce is still our greatest asset,” Marcos said.

He also underscored the government’s “buffers” against external shocks.

“Supported by steady inflows of overseas Filipino remittances, receipts from business process outsourcing, and foreign direct investment, our gross international reserves stood at $99 billion as of end-August, equivalent to 8.3 months of import cover. This remains more than sufficient to cover the economy’s foreign exchange needs,” he said.

The chief executive Marcos made the statement at the NYSE before the ringing of the ceremonial closing bell on its trading floor at 4 p.m.

He took advantage of the invitation to discuss the country’s business-friendly policies and its efforts to accelerate post-pandemic recovery.

Upon his entrance to the hall at the NYSE building for his public statement, the President was greeted by cheerful applause from at least 50 people, mostly Philippine government officials, and businessmen.

Marcos was welcomed by NYSE vice chairman and chief commercial officer John Tuttle, who recognized the Filipino leader’s presence as a “testament” to his commitment to boosting the Philippine economy.

The hall was full, with US-based businessmen and senior executives from Philippine firms filling up the right and left sides of the seats, while Filipino public officials occupied the center row seats.

“Clearly, you have gained the attention of business leaders and investors,” Tuttle told Marcos on stage upon seeing the hall almost jampacked.

To better encourage foreign investors, Marcos came to New York not only with his Cabinet members but also with Sabin Aboitiz of the Aboitiz Group, who heads the Private Sector Advisory Council.

In his speech at the NYSE, Aboitiz disclosed how the President organized chief executive officers of the top companies in the Philippines “to work for him,” eliciting laughter from the audience.

He also explained the efficient coordination between the government and private sector in business operations, saying that Marcos’s decisive leadership eased the collaboration between the two sectors.

Marcos created PSAC to convene leading business leaders and experts who will support the government in attaining its economic objectives through public and private partnerships.

The President will end his trip to the US on 23 September and acknowledged that his engagement at the NYSE serves as an “invaluable opportunity” to encourage more foreign investors to come to the Philippines for “mutually beneficial investments.”

“Bouncing back from the pandemic, the Philippine economy has seen robust growth since last year and has returned to its path toward upper-middle-income country status, achievable within the next few years,” Marcos said.

He described doing business in the Philippines as an “opportunity to reap the benefits of a vibrant economy.”

Marcos cited key legislations that liberalize the economy, including lowering corporate income tax rates and rationalizing fiscal incentives, reducing the minimum paid-up capital requirements for foreign retailers and startups bringing in advanced technology, and allowing full foreign ownership of companies providing public services.

He emphasized that these fiscal and non-fiscal incentives make the Philippines a key destination for investments, noting that the country remains committed to maintaining sound macroeconomic fundamentals.

“In the near-term, our top priorities are protecting the purchasing power of families by managing inflation, reducing the scarring effects of the pandemic, and ensuring sound macroeconomic fundamentals,” he said.

The Marcos administration is keen on implementing policies that will ensure food security, reduce energy, transport, and logistics costs, strengthen social protection, and improve the quality of the labor force and the quality of education.

“As we pursue our short-term agenda, we build the foundations for a stronger, more inclusive future. Our medium-term agenda includes reducing the poverty rate to single digits by 2028 and undergoing an industrial transformation through which science, technology, innovation, and sustainability will drive our industries,” he said.

Following his speech, Marcos had a sit-down interview with Tuttle, where he reaffirmed his commitment to fortifying the bilateral relations between the US and the Philippines.

“And many of the drivers of our early economy were actually American corporations. Many of the strongest corporate benefactors really to government and the rest of society in the Philippines were coming from the United States,” Marcos said.

“I cannot overstate really the role that the United States has played in the Philippines in every aspect of our lives. And so, this is just a continuing evolution and I believe strengthening that relationship between the United States and the Philippines,” he added.

Marco highlighted the value of investing in the younger generations, who he believes will transform the country.

“We must continue to invest in our young people, we must continue to train them properly, we must continue to make them competitive anywhere in the world but most hopefully in the Philippines with our partners and with our allies,” he said.

Tuttle, for his part, said Marcos’s presence at the NYSE did not only renew the sense of optimism “but a further enhanced and strengthened sense of optimism about the opportunities in the Philippines.”

Closing bell

Right after his speech and interview, Marcos and the audience proceeded to the NYSE trading floor to witness the ceremonial bell ringing.

When everyone ascended to the trading floor, it was around 15 minutes before the clock hit 4 p.m., the time the trading day ends.

Marcos was accompanied on the bell podium by First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos, son Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos, cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, among others.

The President’s enthusiasm was evident on his face as he waved to the government officials and the media delegation on the trading floor while he was standing on the balcony.

Marcos said like his delegation, he was thrilled to be at the NYSE and ring the closing bell.

“You know, of course, we’re familiar with the New York Stock Exchange and the bell and that most important balcony in the world…but we had always watched it from afar. And to have the opportunity to be here personally and to be with all of you in the New York Stock Exchange has been a great opportunity and a great pleasure,” he said.

Around 15 seconds before 4 p.m. Marcos pushed the button to ring the bell, signaling the closing of Monday’s trading.

In 1995, NYSE started to allow celebrities and personalities to signal the closing of trades in the stock market aside from its floor managers.

It was not the first time that a Philippine president rang the NYSE bell as former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino have also done so during their past administrations.

Even Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao had the opportunity to ring the closing bell at the NYSE in 2014.

Marcos will continue to hold dialogues with American businessmen and heads of US companies as part of his working visit to the United States.

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