Some US firms keen on expanding local operations, DTI chief reveals

Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said given the “more favorable investment climate,” some American firms with existing operations are keen on expanding their operations in the Philippines.

“There are those that have already existing operations in the Philippines. And given the more favorable investment climate in the Philippines, they are now eager to expand their operations, so they’ll invest some more,” the trade chief said during the Philippine Economic Briefing news conference in New York on Thursday.

Pascual revealed that among the companies that have existing operations in the Philippines, which plan to expand in the country are Philip Morris, the leading cigarette manufacturer in the Philippines and Procter & Gamble (P&G), which is one of the biggest consumer goods firms in the world.

“An example is Philip Morris, you know, that will invest in a new factory with an amount of, in US dollars, $160 million. It’s about P8 to 9 billion. The exchange rate has been moving ‘no. It was P8 billion when we arrived. Now it’s P9 billion because the amount is fixed in US dollars,” Pascual said.  

As for P&G, the trade chief bared, “ We met with Procter & Gamble. They have plans of also putting up additional investments.” 

On top of these companies, Pascual mentioned that he, along with the Philippine economic managers, “met with a number of companies that are engaged in refining mineral ores.” However, he noted that there’s no “tag price” yet, but he said these firms are interested in “taking a closer look at the situation in the Philippines and finding a suitable partner to do it.” 

“That will involve refining our nickel, nickel ores, which right now are [being] exported raw. But with further processing, we hope to be able to produce batteries, nickel batteries that are important parts of electric vehicles,” added Pascual. 

He noted that this would also increase the value addition on the country’s raw materials by processing them to produce semi-finished and finished products. 

Moreover, Pascual emphasized that the country’s economic managers met with seven companies. One, he said, is into the use of innovative stainless steel slabs for purposes of constructing multi-level housing units. 

“That’s another possible investment in the Philippines. No tag price yet but…[it] could be quite suitable because they’ll be able—the main thing there is that the cost will be lower because the speed of construction is really much more than the conventional way. They can finish a building in a few days because the slabs are already pre-fabricated and very durable because they’re made of stainless steel,” Pascual said. 

He said this can have a “backward linkage” to the refining of the country’s iron ore, adding that it “would be another source of value addition…for our mineral ores.” 

The trade chief said, however, that the country’s economic managers are still compiling a list, which will give a good tally of what to expect. He added that many of these prospects that they met will require a series of follow-ups, which he noted will be done by him, along with Filipino businessmen interested in becoming partners with these foreign companies. 

Pascual said he also met with an “outfit that’s into importation of wearables and travel bags from the Philippines.” In relation to this, the trade chief said the country’s already exporting but he expressed hope to renew the country’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). 

The trade arrangement, he said, “will enable us to be exempt from high tariff rates, for export from the Philippines to the US of travel goods and wearable products.” 

The GSP deal is a unilateral preferential trade arrangement by the United States to 122 beneficiary developing countries and least developed beneficiary countries, including the Philippines. It aims to promote economic growth, development and trade by providing duty-free market access to about 5,000 products into the US.