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PBBM secures $1.53-B investment deals in Australian visit

MANILA: President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has secured USD1.53 billion, or PHP86 billion investments, from 12 business deals signed during the Philippine Business Forum on the sidelines of his participation to the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne on Monday.

The 12 business deals consist of 10 memoranda of understanding (MOUs) between Filipino and Australian business leaders and two letters of intent (LOIs) from Australian business leaders who intend to invest in the Philippines.

Among the MOUs are the development, design, construction, commissioning and funding of a Tier-3 Data Center with a capacity of 30 megawatts (MW) to 40 MW in the Poro Point Freeport Zone with a land area of about 16 hectares; and Expansion of Next-Generation Battery Manufacturing in the Philippines.

The MOU was also signed for the deployment of decarbonization solutions comprising orchestration of renewable energy, storage and e-mobility to New Clark City Stadium and other BCDA sites to reduce energy costs, reliance on gri
d power, improve sustainability and achieve progress on decarbonization journey.

Collaborative Partnership on the Development of an Electric Transportation Framework throughout the properties associated with BCDA in the Philippines MOU was also signed along with the Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino (4PH)/Countryside Housing Initiatives (CHI) through the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).

Another MOU is for the establishment of collection centers and a recycling facility for plastic waste in the Philippines using innovative organic recycling, synthesis of biomass and carbon utilization and material synthesis technologies from an Australian university and exports/distribution of the resulting transparent sustainable material for Australian food and beverage companies.

MOU was also signed for the manufacturing of portable, affordable and accessible Automated External Defibrillator (AED) solutions and Distribution of portable, affordable, and accessible Automated External Defibri
llator (AED) solutions.

The National Development Company (NDC), the Philippines’ leading state-owned enterprise investing in diverse industries, will partner with an Australian company through an MOU for the transfer of its waste-to-energy technology to the Philippines that converts biowaste to green fuel.

The NDC aims to establish a globally recognized institute in the Philippines that would be called Southeast Asia Biosecurity Institute (SABI), focused on developing more biosecurity robust supply chains across Southeast Asia that will deliver significant economic, environmental and social benefits for the region.

A letter of intent (LOI) was sent for the Biomass Fueled (Thorium Pellets) Simple-high-Temperature Gas-cooled Power Plant (STGR20 V) with a 40MW base load power to deliver a safe, sustainable, affordable, CO2 neutral, green base-load energy in the Philippines.

An LOI was also sent for the development of digital health services with a particular focus on artificial intelligence and machine learn
ing to improve healthcare availability in the Philippines with a particular focus on tuberculosis and other respiratory illness, which is an expansion of the company’s current operations in the Philippines providing telemedicine services to millions of Filipinos.

‘These agreements signify our unwavering commitment to excellence and fruitful partnerships spanning diverse sectors such as renewable energy, waste-to-energy technology, organic recycling technology, countryside housing initiatives, the establishment of data center, manufacturing of health technology solutions, and digital health services,’ Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual said during the forum.

Enhancing trade and investments

The Philippine Business Forum organized by the DTI served as an opportunity to showcase the Philippine economy’s potential to Australian investors, as well as encourage two-way trade and investments between Australia and the Philippines.

In his speech during the forum, President Marcos urged Austr
alian business leaders to consider investing in the Philippines and welcomed opportunities for greater cooperation between the Philippines and Australia in terms of climate change and energy transition.

Marcos said the Philippines is also an ideal destination for complementation in both manufacturing and services.

‘I invite esteemed Australian businesses to consider the Philippines as a reliable partner that can support your expansion and operations. Let us embark on a journey of strengthened economic ties, mutual growth, and shared success,” he said.

Australia Philippines Business Council President Rafael Toda was present during the forum along with founder and Deputy Chairman St. Baker Energy Innovation Fund Trevor St Baker AO, and Medgate (Asia) Holdings Pty Limited Director David King.

Other business leaders present during the forum were Australia New Zealand Business Chamber President Benjie Romualdez and Philippines Australia Business Council chairman Dennis Quintero.

Marcos said the presence of Fi
lipino business leaders is a clear manifestation that the Philippines is enhancing its regional economic integration agenda on several aspects.

He said the presence of the Australian business leaders, on the other hand, ‘speaks volumes about the importance of fostering robust business partnerships and collaborations’ between the Philippines and Australia.

The President said the recent global challenges present an opportunity for the Philippines to enhance its participation in regional and global value chains.

‘As part of our development strategy, we are keen to explore new avenues of cooperation and foster mutually beneficial partnerships that are commercially meaningful,’ Marcos told Australian business leaders.

Marcos also highlighted the country’s commitment to purposeful reforms, which is evident in key legislative amendments such as the Public Service Act, Foreign Investments Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Renewable Energy Act.

Other legislative amendments include the streamlined busin
ess registration, infrastructure development, and the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CREATE Act), and the overhaul of fiscal incentive structures and responsive policies, including those facilitating public-private partnerships (PPP).

He also highlighted the establishment of the Maharlika Investment Fund, which is the country’s sovereign wealth fund that underscores dedication to financing priority projects and driving socioeconomic impact.

‘We prioritize the ease of doing business, exemplified by efforts to simplify tax payments, streamline regulations, and showcase our unwavering support for businesses,’ he said.

He added the Executive Order No. 18 also established green lanes for strategic investments, simplifying procedures and reducing bureaucratic hurdles.

The chief executive also highlighted the enactment of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Code of the Philippines; the Internet Transactions Act; and the Tatak Pinoy Act.

‘We continue to accelerate and deepen policy reforms to improve the env
ironment where business such as yours will continue to thrive,’ he said.

On renewable energy, Marcos said the Philippines recognizes the importance of addressing climate change and achieving energy transition.

‘I welcome the opportunity for greater cooperation on climate change and energy transition. I’m glad to see that we have made a good start here today with the agreements that we have come to, between our private sector partners,’ he said.

“Aligned with our efforts on decarbonization, we are positioning ourselves as regional hub for smart and sustainable manufacturing,’ he added.

The Philippines aims to attract sustainability-driven strategic investments powered by renewable energy, Marcos said.

He also cited the importance of trade and investment policy tools such as the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which aims to enable regional economic integration agenda.

‘I am hopeful that this will be complemented by other polic
y tools that will enhance Philippines-Australia supply chain partnerships and facilitate greater foreign direct investments. So in conclusion, let me reiterate our gratitude for your presence and active engagement in this forum,’ he said.

‘The members of my economic team will provide the support needed by your businesses for investments to continuously grow and prosper. Together with you as our Strategic Partner, we can make investments happen in the Philippines,’ he added.

In 2023, total trade with Australia amounted to USD4.06 billion with imports valued at USD3.497 billion and exports at USD561.8 million.

PH-Australia ties vital to regional peace

Meanwhile, international think-tank Stratbase ADR Institute on Monday lauded Marcos’ recent state visit to Canberra and the signing of three agreements between the Philippines and Australia.

In a statement, Stratbase Institute president Professor Dindo Manhit underscored the importance of cooperation among like-minded states in ensuring peace and stability in
the Indo-Pacific region.

‘Our Institute strongly believes that the rules-based international order for security and economic prosperity should flourish across the region. Just as how cooperation across sectors through a whole-of-Philippine-society is necessary for domestic societal development, cooperation amongst partners is also necessary to counter geostrategic competition and ensure regional peace and stability,’ he said.

During the President’s visit to Canberra last week, he delivered a rare address to Australia’s parliament where Marcos emphasized that the strategic partnership between Philippines and Australia is more important than ever amid growing security threats in the Indo-Pacific region.

Marcos and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also signed three agreements that will enhance interoperability in maritime domain and maritime environment, cyber and critical technology, and investigative techniques for the implementation of competition laws.

Manhit said that from the visit of Prime M
inister Albanese in September last year to the most recent visit of President Marcos, bilateral agreements between the two countries have increased immensely, with the strategic partnership signed last September as the cusp of this newfound relationship.

‘At the core of this strengthened relationship between the two countries is a shared belief in the rules-based international order, one that is furthered by multilateralism intended to sustain peace and stability in the region. The agreements signed during this two-day visit demonstrates those shared values,’ he said.

Manhit added this longstanding partnership between the Philippines and Australia ‘signals a significant step forward in bilateral relations towards forging a stronger, more prosperous, and peaceful Indo-Pacific.’

Maritime transport, marine restoration support

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is counting on Australia’s continued support to maritime transport and to the ASEAN member states’ action plan to combat marine debris
in the region.

‘Joint efforts of governments and stakeholders are necessary to translate this Plan into national and local legislation to restore and preserve the health of our seas and oceans,’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said on Monday during the maritime cooperation forum on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne.

Citing the Philippines’ shipbuilding and seafaring heritage, Manalo emphasized maritime transport and how decarbonization could provide a new avenue for ASEAN-Australia collaboration that would potentially place the region ahead of the global curve in adopting new standards and technologies.

‘This will better align the regional industry with global climate change goals while unlocking new economic opportunities. With Filipino nationals accounting for the highest number of the global seafaring workforce, the Philippines supports initiatives for upskilling global maritime professionals for a greener shipping industry,’ he said.

The other areas of special i
mportance to the country as highlighted during the discussions include bilateral defense and maritime security, marine environment protection and biodiversity conservation, and marine and ocean science.

‘We pursue and honor mutually beneficial arrangements, including with Australia, as part of our duty to strengthen the rules-based security architecture and preserve regional and global peace, security and stability,’ Manalo said.

Healthy and sustainable marine ecosystems guarantee the flourishing of ‘blue economies’ and greater food security and climate resilience.

The Undeterred Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF) destroys marine habitats, depletes fish stocks worldwide, and threatens the food and livelihood of millions.

In line with this, the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB), hosted by the Philippines in Laguna, was established in 2005 as ASEAN’s response to biodiversity loss.

Manalo invited all partners, including Australia, to engage the ACB in its role as a regional hub for knowled
ge sharing, capacity-building and partnerships.

‘Marine resources are under threat from multiple factors, including overfishing, pollution, and climate change. We must work together to generate the science and apply innovative technologies we need to manage, protect, and preserve our precious marine resources, and sustainably harness their potential to serve mankind in the frontiers of medicine, food security and climate resilience,’ he said.

Source: Philippines News Agency