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US companies eye cooperation, investment in health, digital infra, energy in PH

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The Business Executives for National Security (BENS) reaffirmed on Monday morning its commitment to boost the cooperation and investment of the US in terms of health, digital infrastructure and energy programs in the Philippines as part of the efforts to enhance the Philippine-US economic engagement.

In a meeting with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at the Malacañan Palace, members of the BENS asked the chief executive about his thoughts on business opportunities in the healthcare system in the Philippines especially on the nursing industry and on the digital infrastructure and energy.

“So one of the main things that we are doing – in fact, we are groundbreaking a big multi-specialty hospital just outside Manila soon and we are going to open more of them as annexes hospitals,” President Marcos told members of the BENS as he emphasized that the Philippine government aims to build more hospitals in the far-flung areas.

“I’m always been a great believer of bringing healthcare down to the grassroots level. Right now, there is a tendency for us to only go to the hospital when it is absolutely necessary … So healthcare has become an important part of this administration efforts,” he added.

The President also emphasized that the Philippines became “a victim of our own success” especially during the pandemic where a lot of world leaders have asked for the country’s help to deploy more Filipino nurses and medical practitioners abroad.

But he said that the Department of Health (DOH) has already some plans on how to resolve the problem.

“Unfortunately, in terms of healthcare workers, we have become victims of our own success in that the Filipinos did really well during the pandemic. And so every leader I meet says ‘can we have more Filipino med techs, doctors, and nurses?’ So we’re having a shortage here,” President Marcos said.

“So we are trying to find schemes so as to alleviate that problem. One of the things our Department of Health has come up with is that we are coming to an arrangement with countries who will accept Filipino healthcare workers to at the same time train the equivalent number of healthcare workers that will stay in the Philippines,” he added.

“We are trying to accelerate the board examinations of nurses so we can actually put out more. So that’s the adjustment that we are trying to make. So it’s not only in the facilities, it’s also in the training. We are very proud of them but we wish they’d stay home.”

President Marcos also told the BENS that the price, reliability and supply of energy is one of the problems being brought up by some of the foreign investors in the Philippines, including the problem on the ease of doing business.

The President, however, emphasized that it is something that the government is working on.

“The ease of doing business is something that we can do immediately about because putting up power plants no matter what kind of power plants, there are six, seven years, lead time. So maybe with the new technologies maybe we can do better.,” the chief executive said.

“So that we are certainly working on. The distribution has improved. The distribution is a factor because there are parts of the Philippines where they have … then there are certain areas where they do not, deficit. So that’s what we are hoping to attend to in the near term,” he added.

Digital infrastructure

In terms of the digital infrastructure, Marcos said the government has amended some laws to make investment more attractive in the Philippines especially on the digitalization of the country’s economy not only in the government, but also in the private sector.

The chief executive also talked about the governments efforts to give importance to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

“We are trying to bring them into the system of digital marketing. So we put up an app for small business to be able to use,” Marcos said, referring to the “Paleng-QR Ph Plus Initiative” that aims to prop up economic activities in the Philippines.

“We have encouraged all of these private NGOs who have had an interest in promoting start-ups. We are trying to create an environment that will be friendly to start-ups because we know that start-ups have higher rate of failure than other traditional businesses. So we need to be able to adjust to that new way of doing things,” he added.

The President also took pride on the country’s booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industry as it continued its operations even during the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines through the so-called work-from-home scheme.

“It derives from the very clear understanding that many of the challenges that we face today the solutions lie in new technologies. And that’s why the retraining and re-skilling of our people have become important because we have to get them into that line of work so that we have enough people to occupy that,” Marcos said.

“Actually, the workforce is quite full when it comes to tech. But again, we need to catch up in terms of training, in terms of getting involved in the new technologies that we are seeing for many, many reasons: for the digitalization, for the climate change, for the cybersecurity,” he added.

For their part, the members of the BENS expressed their gratitude to the President as they recognized his excellent leadership in restoring the special and important alliance between the governments of the Philippines and the US.

Members of the BENS present during the meeting with President Marcos were GardaWorld Federal Services President Pete Dordal; WinFertility President & CEO Roger Shedlin; Cavalry Asset Management Managing Partner & CIO John K. Hurley; Arnold & Porter LLP Senior Partner Ramon Marks; and Pescador Resources President David C. McDonald.

SPG International President & CEO Steve Darnell; Crisis Response Company LLC President & CEO Robert Akin; Shield Capital Co-Founder & Managing Partner Raj Shah; BENS President & CEO Ret. Gen. Joseph Votel; and BENS Vice President of Programs Patrick Sweeney were also present during the meeting.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson was also present during the meeting along with Political Counselor Brett Blackshaw, Defense Attache Col. Edward Evans, First Secretary David Sequeira, and Plans & Policy Chief, Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) Mr. Jonathan Wachtel.

The BENS, which is a 10-member business group in the US and founded in 1982, is currently in the Philippines until Thursday to engage with Philippine leaders at the nexus of business and national security and discuss potential areas for investment and cooperation in the country. | PND

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