Raimondo assured PHL will address red tape, corruption

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. promised a US delegation that the government will cut red tape and corruption to make investing in the Philippines more attractive, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said on Thursday.

“President Marcos was clear with us and has been in his actions, that he is very forward-leaning towards the US,” she told a virtual briefing, after her two-day visit in Manila with a 22-member US Presidential Trade and Investment Mission this week.

“All these things (cutting red tape, anti-corruption measures) are steps in the right direction which will make the Philippines an even more attractive place to do business for American companies.”

The US mission indicated plans to invest over a billion dollars in the Philippines, Ms. Raimondo said on Monday.

Visa and United Parcel Service, Inc. committed to upskill Filipino workers from micro, small and medium enterprises and support their digitalization efforts, the US Department of Commerce said on Wednesday.

Microsoft Corp. also expressed its commitment to work with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the Departments of Budget and Management and Trade and Industry (DTI) to train jobseekers and students in artificial intelligence.

Google will also roll out a career certificate program in 50 virtual campuses at the DTI 1,300 local business centers in 16 regions.

More than 30 million workers are expected to benefit from the digital upskilling investment pledges, Ms. Raimondo said at the briefing.

Private equity firm KKR & Co. has also pledged to continue investing about $400 million to develop about 2,000 telecommunications towers in the Philippines.

Calixto V. Chikiamco, Foundation for Economic Freedom president, said in a Viber message that Mr. Marcos should appoint an official that will act as a “ringleader or bastonero” to impose discipline on local governments and government agencies that impose unwarranted bureaucratic delays on investors.

“Government should institute express lanes for big-ticket investment projects, which further reduces the number of days in the processing of permits and licenses at all levels of government,” Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst and convenor of think tank InfraWatch PH said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

The President should also implement a whistleblower program to bring to the surface corruption in major projects.

US companies are keen on investing in the Philippines’ semiconductor industry and to double the number of packaging, testing and assembly facilities, Ms. Raimondo told a business forum in Makati on Tuesday. The Philippines has 13 of these facilities in total.

The Philippines is one of seven countries that the US is working with to diversify its semiconductor supply chain, as required by the CHIPS and Science Act.

Under the law, the US will provide $52.7 billion in subsidies to boost chip manufacturing and to persuade chipmakers in China to move to the US or other friendly countries.

Last month after his visit to Manila, US State Department Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, Environment Jose W. Fernandez said high energy costs are keeping semiconductor companies and miners from investing in the Philippines.

“These are some of America’s biggest and most successful companies and they are deeply committed to making these investments,” Ms. Raimondo said on Thursday.

“He (Mr. Marcos) is very committed to making the necessary changes in the regulatory structure, cutting tape, being against corruption, being a transparent government.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez