Pact draws mixed reactions from Cebu biz leaders

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014


THE signing of a 10-year defense pact between the United States of America (USA) and the Philippines to allow increased presence of US troops in the country drew mixed reactions from the Cebu business leader.

Cebu Business Club president Gordon Alan Joseph said he welcomed the increased presence of the US in the Philippines.

“China is obviously on a very aggressive expansionist mode. We need more strong allies to maintain stability and to push more economic growth,” he said in an interview yesterday.

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Joseph said, “security will lead to a more stable economy.”

He said the boost in number of US troops to the country is an indication of the enhanced security benefit for the Philippines and thus, “a more secure country can focus on strengthening its economy and provide more jobs for Filipinos.”

The Philippines has long been seeking additional support in its dispute with China over areas such as the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) was signed after nearly two years of negotiations. It allows US forces temporary access to select Philippine bases and allow them to position planes and ships there.

The 10-year deal was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg Monday morning.

Close ties

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Ma. Teresa Chan said “Obama’s visit re-affirms the close relationship that the Philippines has with the US and the renewed focus on furthering Asia Pacific-US ties is a welcome development not just for economic reasons but for promoting regional stability as well.”

Chan said USA is the world’s biggest consumer market and the world biggest net importer and the Philippines biggest and most important ally. The two countries have always been good trading partners, she said.

“If they (US) are now realizing that we are a sleeping tiger and now warming up to us, then we should take advantage,” she said.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce president Philip Tan, however, thinks otherwise.

He believes Obama’s recent visit to the country and the signing of the 10-year defense pact “will not make a huge difference” as far as business and investments are concerned.

“The challenge to attract more investments is not on the peace and order but on the constant change of policies every new administration,” said Tan. “What the business sector wants is consistency in policies.”

Vietnam

Tan noted that Vietnam has higher foreign direct investments than the Philippines not because the of US economic and military presence but due to strong and consistent policies implemented by the Vietnam government. He said eradicating corruption in all systems would also bring improvement to the economy.

The Philippines is the final stop of Obama’s week-long Asia tour, a trip aimed at reaffirming US defense commitments and bolstering relations with allies in the region.

Obama announced on Monday that American business leaders would be coming to the Philippines in June this year to explore more opportunities.

The two countries, Obama said, have agreed to deepen economic cooperation. The two leaders also discussed the steps that the Philippines could take to position itself for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is a trade agreement among Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. The US Trade Representative defines it as “a vehicle for Asia-Pacific-wide economic integration, which will strengthen US ties to the robust economies of this region” that it sees as the US’ best vehicle to advance its economic interests in the region.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 30, 2014.

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