NEWLY appointed ambassadors of the country commit to help Cebuano business owners capture investments in countries where they will represent the Philippines.

During the Economic Diplomacy Townhall Meeting in Cebu Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, four of the country’s new envoys—Grace Cruz-Fabella, ambassador to the Argentine Republic; Pedro Ramirez Laylo Jr., ambassador to the State of Israel; Medardo Antonio Gonzales Macaraig,

ambassador to the Republic of Singapore; and Alfonso Ferdinand Agbayani Ver, ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—pledged to connect Cebu to these countries through trade and investments.

This is in response to the mandate of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for envoys to help the country pursue business opportunities and woo investors to invest in the Philippines.

Laylo said as representatives of the country they aren’t only mandated to look after the Filipino communities in their assigned country and advance the Philippines’ interest but also connect the private sector globally.

He invited the Cebuano business community to look into Israel, for example, whose economy is one of the healthiest globally.

Israel ranked 34th as the Philippines’ trading partner, being the 39th export market and 31st import source.

“We need to create channels of mutual prosperity,” he said.

Laylo said he has been scouting what industries in Israel that the Philippines could collaborate with such as in the area of innovation and technology.

Tourism is another industry that the Philippines and Israel could grow big together. Israelis travel for beach and adventure tourism.

The UAE, on the other hand, is awash with money, according to Ver. Qatar, for instance, has a lot of “petro dollars” to invest in various industries globally.

“They are actively looking for countries to invest in,” said Ver.

Moreover, Fabella also enticed the Cebuano business community to look into the South Americas, particularly Brazil one of the world’s manufacturing powerhouse.

“There’s plenty of opportunities in Brazil. We can look at the value chain and processing of finished products and find the niche there,” she said.

Macaraig, who represents the Philippines in Singapore, said there is immense opportunity for Cebu in the area of tourism given the island’s 19 weekly flights to Singapore.

He said Cebu could take advantage of this opportunity by enticing not only the Singaporeans to come to Cebu but all foreign tourists passing through Singapore.

Macaraig also encouraged Cebu business owners to explore the six signed deals with Singapore of which four refer to digital products.

Need of market info

Responding to the invitation of the envoys to explore business opportunities abroad, Cebu’s business chambers as well as representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Tourism also pitched to the newly minted ambassadors Cebu as a preferred business destination.

“We are asking the guidance of our envoys to help us exploit the opportunities out there especially since there are countries not in our radar,” said Charles Kenneth Co, president of Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Co said Cebu’s advantage is in the creative and design and that the province is exploring its niche in this industry. Likewise, the business community is also seeking the envoys’ guidance in trade facilitation for business owners to be familiar with the trade regulations overseas.

“We need information on what these foreign markets require and what matches our capabilities,” said Kelie Ko, president of Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, adding that the chamber is willing to collaborate with the country’s ambassadors to increase investments in the province.

The ambassadors also reminded business owners to take advantage of the country’s various foreign trade agreements.

The townhall meeting in Cebu was organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs - Office for International and Economic Relations’ (DFA-OIER), in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Cebu.

Marcos appointed 35 Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (AEPs). As AEPs, primordial in their duties, among others, is to promote tourism and invite trade and investments in the Philippines.

Included in the itinerary of our AEPs’ economic diplomacy tour are visits to select business establishments in Cebu and the Town Hall Meeting, which aims to intensify economic promotion activities for trade, investment, tourism and services in the country.