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Sunday, April 21, 2024

US trip yields over $1.1b in investment pledges

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American companies—including those involved in pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, solar power and business process outsourcing–committed to invest more than $1.1 billion in the Philippines and told visiting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. they were eager to tap the country’s “critical mix of talent and global business service expertise.”

Executives from pharmaceutical and biotechnology leader Moderna, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told President Marcos they intended to set up a vaccine-making facility in the Philippines during a meeting with Filipino officials at Blair House in Washington DC.

Moderna Chief Commercial Officer Arpa Garay and Senior Vice President and General Manager Patrick Bergstedt said they are set to establish a shared service facility, their third in the world.

SIGNIFICANT GAINS. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and members of his delegation secures over $1.1 billion in investment pledges during his meeting with several business groups at Blair House in Washington DC.

Garay said the shared service in the Philippines will serve the entire Asia Pacific Region. She underscored they want to explore further the successful public-private partnership between the Philippine government and Moderna.

“We are really excited to have selected the Philippines for the third one primarily because you know the capabilities exist. We have the talent that exists, and we know that the partnership will be one that can be beneficial for both Moderna and the Philippines,” Garay said.

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Bergstedt said there are other countries that offered shared services with Moderna but they have chosen the Philippines as the “perfect location” for their third shared service facility in the world.

Moderna was among the pharmaceutical companies that pioneered the production of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, which were distributed to the Philippines at the height of the pandemic.

Marcos met with the Moderna executives on Tuesday afternoon (Wednesday, Manila time) at the Blair House in Washington DC along with former president and now Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Speaker Martin Romualdez, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual and Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo Jr., Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez and DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo were also present during the meeting.

Once operational, it will be Moderna’s only shared service facility in Asia and the third in the world following Poland and the United States.

It is expected to employ about 50 health professionals.

“We are pleased to expand our footprint into the Philippines by establishing an enterprise solutions hub and commercial operations,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said in announcing the investment plan. “The Philippines has a critical mix of talent and global business service expertise, which makes it an excellent location to scale efficiently and provide regional support.”

Moderna plans to begin operations in the Philippines in the second or third quarter of 2023.

At the same time, the President welcomed the plan of Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) to invest $200 million to build a new R&D facility to add to its semiconductor plant in the Gateway Business Park in Cavite.

During a meeting with the President, ADI executives said they have continued to increase the level of technology that’s been introduced, and are setting up a 300-mm Center of Excellence in Cavite, which is doing all of the company’s wafer programs.

Established in 1965, ADI is a global semiconductor leader.

In August 2021, ADI announced the completion of its acquisition of Maxim Integrated Products, Inc., strengthening its position as a high-performance analog semiconductor company.

ADI’s Philippine counterpart, Analog Devices General Trias, Inc. (ADGTI), engages in the manufacture, assembly, testing and inspection of semiconductor devices.

As of 2022, ADGTI has 5,252 employees, with a total of $394.39 million worth of exports for the same year.

Solar company Maxeon, meanwhile, said it will invest some $900 million (P49.8 billion) in solar energy in the Philippines, while American health care services provider Optum will invest some P800 million in medical business process outsourcing (BPO) in the Philippines.

Bill Mulligan, CEO of Maxeon, which operates the SunPower brand in all global markets, said the investment will provide more than 3,000 jobs in the next few years.

Mulligan said the reason for the expansion efforts is the company’s confidence in the administration of President Marcos, as he looks forward to expanding the engagement with the Philippine government.

“The Philippines has been incredibly important… it’s actually a strategic part of our company. And I want to thank you and I want to thank all of the government agencies for all of the help and the support for the 40 plus years that we’ve been in the country,” Mulligan said.

Mulligan said they are starting the expansion of their R&D facility in Cavite, providing around 2,000 engineering jobs in the area.

Maxeon has been operating in the Philippines since 2003 and opened its first factory at the Laguna Technopark in Biñan City in 2004.

Meanwhile, Optum’s P800 million medical BPO investment is set to employ some 1,500 Filipinos.

John Prince, president and COO of Optum, said the firm is committed to the Philippines and lauded the “strategic partnership that we have for a very long time.”

“I’m a really big believer that great things happen to great teams and we have a great team in the Philippines,” Prince said.

In March this year, Optum met with the Board of Investments (BOI) to discuss details of their planned new project in Davao and queries on the importation of equipment.

Since 2011, UHG/Optum has invested P5.1 billion in capital expenditure in operating four sites in Taguig, Muntinlupa, Quezon City and Cebu City.

In a separate meeting, the President welcomed the decision of BPO company Atento to set up its first call center in the Philippines at the Iloilo Business Park in Madurriao, Iloilo.

President Marcos told Atento officials that they made the right decision in choosing the Philippines as their location as “Filipinos speak and write the best English.”

“I know it will be successful because it has been successful in the past. It has been a go-to industry for the Philippine government for quite a long time now,” Mr. Marcos said.

President Marcos met with Atento President Fili Ledezma Soto and Chief Delivery Officer Josh Ashby at the Blair House as part of his official trip to the US.

Atento officials assured the President and the Philippine government officials of their commitment to start their call center in Iloilo.

Atento is a customer relationship management and business process outsourcing company operating in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay and the US.

Atento is projected to provide employment opportunities for around 554 workers in the first year and 665 workers in the second year, bringing in an investment of P21.4 million.

Also on Tuesday, a seafaring industry executive told President Marcos that US firms are set to hire some 75,000 Filipino seafarers in the next three to four years. John Padget, president and CEO of Carnival Corp. said his group of companies is set to hire the Filipino seafarers and praised Filipino workers for their hospitality and competitiveness in the global workforce.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the marine, deck, hospitality, restaurant…everything is based on the happiness, the smile, and the greatness of the Filipino employees,” he said.

President Marcos thanked the US employers for their continued confidence in Filipino professionals and skilled workers.

Meanwhile, an organization of prominent Filipino and American civic and business leaders vowed greater cooperation and partnership in the development and Philippine economy.

The United States-Philippines Society, co-chaired by Ambassador John D. Negropotente, made the commitment following the group’s meeting with President Marcos.

Negroponte, who was US ambassador to Manila from 1993 to 1996, said Marcos’ visit to Washington laid the framework for the commitment of the group to support the Philippines.

“(The) President’s visit… sets the table for our work…in the months and years ahead. Thank you for that,” Negroponte told President Marcos.

Also known as The Society, the USPS is a non-profit, bi-national organization of prominent civic and business leaders of the US and the Philippines.

The Society was organized in May 2012 with the aim of enhancing and awareness of the profile of the Philippines in the United States in the areas of security, trade, investments, tourism, the environment, history, education and culture.

Negroponte noted the positive developments of President Marcos’ meeting with US President Joseph Biden last Monday.

Michael DiPaula Coyle, head of international trade policy government and regulatory affairs of IBM, a member of the US-PH Society, said they are “very, very bullish” on the Philippine economy and look forward to working with the government to invest in digitalization.

“We’re also very heavily invested in helping grow your talent pool through skills development programs,” Coyle said. “We’ve had a number of partnerships with the US government with your government to improve skills development particularly in areas like… AI and cybersecurity where I think the Philippines has an enormous opportunity to position yourselves as very competitive economy particularly in the IT services sector.”

Speaker Romualdez said the hard work of the President has paid off with investments that would boost the Philippine economy and create jobs for thousands of Filipinos.

This developed following a series of engagements that the President and his delegation held in Washington D.C. with various leading US firms on the third day of his official visit to the US.

“It is heartening to note that the President’s mission to the US has scored significant gains that would not only spur further economic growth but more importantly, result in direct benefits for thousands of Filipino workers in terms of job created,” Romualdez said.

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