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11 December 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C.—“Today, we look back on an eventful year, but we also look back on the great strides taken by the Philippines on the firm belief that good governance is good economics. The Philippine economy is in excellent shape, and the future holds much promise,” declared Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. at the Year End Briefing on key developments in the Philippines held at the Philippine Embassy on 10 December 2015.

Ambassador Cuisia described how strong macroeconomic fundamentals, prudent public finance management and good governance allowed the Philippines to maintain the strengths of its business environment and competitiveness in 2015, as well as continued overall investor confidence. He noted the re-emergence of the industry sector as a strong driver of economic growth. The Ambassador also reassured US corporate executives that the downturns in GDP growth and the stock market were reactions to external conditions rather than problems within the Philippine economy.

“Our strategic gains in competitiveness and transparency have been validated by independent institutions,” Ambassador Cuisia told the audience, citing the Index of Economic Freedom of the Heritage Foundation, World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Scorecard.

The Ambassador also reported developments in infrastructure, the unique demographics of the Philippines and the strength of the IT/BPM sector, which all continue to be the main drivers of economic growth and development.

He then described the laws passed under the reform agenda that increase the Philippines’ attractiveness for investment while institutionalizing the foundations of good governance, fair competition and business transparency. Together with the vigilance of the Filipino people, “these laws ensure that the substance and pace of reforms will be sustainable,” Ambassador Cuisia noted.

Reactions to the economic portion of the briefing were positive and optimistic. “Over the last five years, the Aquino Administration made impressive strides in growing the Philippine economy and improving governance. 2015 continued and built on this record of accomplishment and helped to create a welcoming environment to foreign investors,” said Alexander Feldman, President and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council.

“We have seen a steady increase in US business confidence in the Philippines over the past several years,” said John Goyer, Senior Director, Southeast Asia, at the US Chamber of Commerce.

He added, “President Aquino’s reform efforts have been vigorous and robust, and the business community has taken notice.  The Philippines’ interest in joining the TPP down the road is indicative of its commitment to ongoing trade and investment reform and liberalization.”

The Ambassador reiterated the keen interest of the Philippines to accede to the Trans Pacific Partnership. He likewise addressed the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, and summarized the key outcomes from Manila’s hosting of APEC in 2015.

“As host of this year’s APEC Summit, the world witnessed the country’s bright future and heard firsthand from its leading investors.  We look forward to working with the Government of the Philippines to continuing to ensure that American business is aware of and takes advantage of the opportunities in the Philippines as the Philippines moves toward eventual accession to TPP,” Feldman noted on the Philippine interest in TPP.

Ambassador Cuisia also discussed the High Level Bilateral Meetings with President Obama and other US officials, the South China Sea arbitration case, and Philippines-US defense cooperation, as well as the President’s participation in the climate change conference in Paris.

Ambassador Cuisia then rounded out the briefing with slides on the state of tourism in the Philippines. He described the strategy of creating a more dynamic tourism messaging, and how the focus of the marketing campaign, as with the investment portfolio, was the Filipino people. This year, the Philippines ranks 7th in the WEF Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, jumping twenty places up from 2011.

The Philippines’ top envoy to the US ended the briefing by informing the audience that the Philippines and the United States will celebrate the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations in 2016. “We are committed to enhancing our political and security relations, making our economic ties more robust, and strengthening the people-to-people ties that bind our two nations together,” the Ambassador emphasized.

The Year End Briefing was well-received by the audience and was followed by a wide-ranging question and answer discussion with the Ambassador. “Ambassador Cuisia crafted a comprehensive presentation that expertly capped a truly eventful year for the Philippines and the US-Philippines Society,” said Ambassador John Maisto, President of the US-Philippines Society, after the briefing.

“The program drew an overflow audience and stimulated discussion of governance, growth, trade, security, and other mutually important issues in the US-Philippines relationship,” added US-Philippines Society Executive Director Hank Hendrickson.

The Year End Briefing was co-sponsored by the Philippine Embassy, the US Philippines Society, and supported by the US ASEAN Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce. ###

11 December 2015

11 December 2015

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. briefs the Washington community of the great strides taken by the Philippines in 2015 during the Year End Briefing on 10 December 2015 at the Philippine Embassy.

11 December 2015

Ambassador John Maisto, President of the US-Philippines Society, during the Ambassador’s Year End Briefing on 11 December 2015.

11 December 2015

Mr. Hank Hendrickson, Executive Director of the US-Philippines Society, moderates the open forum during the Ambassador’s Year End Briefing on 11 December 2015.