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Marcos gets US investment pledges

SEVERAL US COMPANIES are seeking to invest in the Philippines after company officials met with a delegation from Manila during President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s four-day visit to Washington, D.C. this week, according to the Philippine Trade department.

The business delegation met with officials from Zero Motorcycles, Analog Devices, healthcare provider Optum (UHG), Inc., business process outsourcing (BPO) company Atento S.A., NuScale Power Corp., Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. and Maxeon Solar Technologies, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Optum will invest P800 million to establish a health information management service operation in Davao that will create 1,500 jobs, the agency said.

Analog Devices will set up a research and development center that will hire 1,000 engineers for semiconductors, it added.

“We are happy with the outcome as six of the companies have firm plans in the Philippines,” Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said in the statement. “The companies will put in billions of dollars’ worth of investments and will generate thousands of jobs for the Filipino people.”

Maxeon plans to produce its Max 7 product in the country.

“With this project, the most advanced solar cells in the world will be manufactured in the Philippines,” the Trade department said.

In a separate statement, the presidential palace said Atento would set up its first call center in the Philippines at the Iloilo Business Park.

Mr. Marcos told company officials at the Blair House in Washington, D.C. “Filipinos speak and write the best English,” the Presidential Communications Office said in a separate statement.

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

“I don’t see how it could be a problem since this is really a line of work that has become well established in the Philippines,” he added.

Atento operates in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay and the US, the palace said.

The company is expected to employ more than 500 Filipinos in the first year and 665 workers in the second year, bringing P21.4 million in investments, it added.

Atento officials met with the Philippine Board of Investments (BoI) in July to discuss its BPO plan.

Also on Tuesday, vaccine maker Moderna, Inc. told Mr. Marcos it would set up an enterprise solution hub in the Philippines that will provide business services across the Asia-Pacific region, where Moderna has operations in six markets.

“Moderna also plans to establish commercial operations in the Philippines,” it said in a statement.

The company said it would provide enterprise solutions in the Philippines, similar to its counterparts in Warsaw and Atlanta, which were established in May 2021 and March 2022, respectively.

“The hub will initially house finance, pharmacovigilance, medical and HR personnel, in addition to commercial-focused roles, to support its direct presence in the market,” it said.

Moderna expects to employ 50 workers in the Philippines this year. It plans to start operations in the second or third quarter.

Meanwhile, British-American cruise operator Carnival Corp. announced a plan to hire about 75,000 Filipino seafarers in the next three to four years.

Company Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President John Padget during a meeting with Mr. Marcos and other Philippine officials praised Filipino workers for their hospitality and competitiveness in the global workforce, the palace said.

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

Meanwhile, Ultra Safe CEO Francesco Venneri told Mr. Marcos the company wants to bring clean and reliable nuclear energy to the Philippines, describing the move as “probably a very important way for us to enter the market.”

It will be Ultra Safe’s first nuclear energy facility in Southeast Asia.

“We also note that there’s a great deal of discussion about Mindoro having blackouts and that might be an excellent… a good science [solution],” Mr. Venneri told Mr. Marcos.

On Monday, Oregon-based NuScale said it would conduct a study to find a site in the Philippines. The company is known for developing small nuclear power systems.

The Philippines “essentially has a shortfall in power supply” and the entry of NuScale would help address this issue, Mr. Marcos told the company.

Khevin A. Yu, energy transition campaigner at Greenpeace Philippines, said nuclear energy companies are making the Philippines a “guinea pig” for “untested risky technologies.”

“Small modular reactors are still untested and unproven, and there is currently no way to safely store nuclear waste,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Marcos left the Philippines on Sunday for his five-day visit to Washington, where he meets with US President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

The Philippine leader also met with US Vice-President Kamala Harris at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, discussing a wide range of areas including digital inclusion and clean energy economy, according to the palace.
He thanked Ms. Harris for “laying the groundwork” for his Monday meeting with Mr. Biden.
“The vice-president and President Marcos also discussed strengthening the US-Philippine economic partnership and noted President Biden’s plan to dispatch a Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines to grow investment between our countries,” the White House said in a statement.

It said the US vice-president had also emphasized Washington’s “commitment to the rule of law and respect for human rights, including labor rights, freedom of expression and the press, and other democratic principles and the importance of these areas for the US-Philippine partnership.” — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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