By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times
(UPDATE) PRESIDENT-ELECT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos on Thursday met with United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in an effort to strengthen the economic partnership and alliance between Manila and Washington.
Incoming Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez said Marcos and Sherman reaffirmed their commitment in various areas of cooperation.
"The two also shared the importance of public-private partnerships, clean energy and the digital economy," Rodriguez said.
Sherman is the first high-ranking foreign government official to meet with Marcos since his landslide victory in the May elections.
"We discussed strengthening our longstanding alliance, expanding people-to-people ties, deepening our economic relationship, advancing human rights, and preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific," Sherman said in a Twitter post.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement the two "highlighted the importance of the US-Philippine Alliance to security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world and the importance of fostering respect for human rights and rule of law in the Philippines."
Rodriguez, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Theresa Lazaro were also present at the meeting.
Sherman was in Manila as part of her 10-day, four-country swing in Asia.
The State Department said Sherman's visit to the region "reflects the United States' continued commitment to the Indo-Pacific."
Sherman will also meet "senior members of the incoming and outgoing administrations to discuss new ways to deepen the bilateral US-Philippines Alliance," Price said.
Sherman's trip to the region follows the US-Asean Summit, and US President Joe Biden's visit to South Korea and Japan.
Biden is hoping to expand Philippines-US relations following a call with Marcos.
Other countries have been trying to beef up their ties with the Philippines days before the Marcos administration officially takes over the reins of government.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez and Israel Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivay have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish a bilateral consultative mechanism that will develop and strengthen trade, enhance investments and advance economic ties between the Philippines and Israel.
Under a Joint Economic Commission (JEC), the two countries will exchange information on economic issues, identify and implement cooperative projects, organize consultations, missions and official visits, and enhance cooperation and linkages with their respective private sector.
"As the country accelerates its efforts for continued recovery from the pandemic and manages to sustain inclusive growth, we continue to actively pursue new partnerships, either through JECs agreements and free trade agreements (FTAs) with strategic and non-traditional partners," Lopez said in a statement issued by DTI on Thursday.
Lopez said the Philippines' list of priority sectors for investment promotion includes agribusiness and agriculture production, energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy, infrastructure and public-private partnership projects such as infrastructure, real estate development, logistics, innovation including artificial intelligence, Information Technology-Business Process Management (IT-BPM) and manufacturing.
During the meeting, Lopez highlighted the country's economic reforms that will help attract more investments. These include the ease of doing business (EODB) Act, Public Service Act (PSA), and Corporate Recovery and the Tax Incentives for Enterprises (Create) Law.
"With the economic reforms instituted over the past six years and the strong domestic rebound, the country is on track to post 7-9 percent growth this year and hopefully achieve upper-middle-income status by next year," Lopez said.
Barbivay expressed hope that more Israeli companies would invest in the Philippines.
The Philippines and Israel earlier signed the first Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) to stimulate investment flow between the two countries.
Lopez disclosed he expects $150 million worth of investments to enter the country this year, adding that Israeli investors also signed letters of intent expressing their plans to invest in agribusiness, software development and IT-BPM.
He said there were also inquiries on food and beverage, satellite images, and water desalination and treatment.
In 2021, Israel ranked 35th among the Philippines' trading partners, 35th export market, and 31st import supplier.
During the same year, total approved investments from Israel reached P829.9 million, making the country the 12th largest source of investments.
The Philippines and South Korea also signed a memorandum of understanding, which will strengthen support for Filipino veterans of the Korean War and exchanges among the veterans' descendants.
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Korea Patriot and Veterans Affairs Minister Park Minshik signed the agreement during Lorenzana's visit to Seoul last June 3.
The pact honors the sacrifice and dedication of the 7,420 soldiers who make up the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (Peftok) during the 1950-53 Korean War.
It was the third-largest force contribution to the allies' war effort, after the United States and Britain.
At the height of the Covid pandemic, South Korea distributed donations for elderly Filipino Korean War veterans and their families.
Also at the signing ceremony were the Philippine Ambassador to South Korea Ma. Theresa Dizon De-Vega; Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina; Young Erlinda Mae, the daughter of the late Maj. Maximo Young (ret.); president of the Philippine War Veterans Association; officials from the Ministry of Patriot and Veterans Affairs; and descendants of Korean War veterans.
WITH ANNA LEAH E. GONZALES AND JAVIER JOE ISMAEL