Twice down under

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
Twice down under
President Marcos, Jr. with Secretary Pascual and the Philippine business delegation

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., or PBBM, took two trips to Australia recently and within the span of a few days. All for good reason, no doubt. I was privileged to be a part of the business delegation in the second one.

The first visit was to Canberra, the capital of Australia, where he addressed the Australian Parliament upon the invitation of Governor-General David Hurley.

Hurley was the Australian representative who attended the inauguration of President Marcos in 2022.

With his Canberra trip, PBBM enhanced bilateral ties between the two nations, particularly in the realm of defense and security cooperation, and expanded trade and investment opportunities.

Before his departure, the President hoped to bring home a more robust Philippine-Australian relationship, which is now more than 70 years old. This was his way of reciprocating the state visit of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in September of last year.

(From left) The author, Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs Secretary Frederick Go, Finance Secretary Ralph Recto, and Secretary Pascual.

Upon his arrival in Manila after this two-day visit, the President said that the Canberra visit was, indeed, a significant step in elevating Philippine-Australian relations.

He had productive discussions with their parliamentary leaders, notably their Senate president and Speaker of the House, and, of course, Prime Minister Albanese.

Three bilateral agreements covering maritime domain, cyber and critical technology, and competition laws and policies were also signed.

The second Australian visit was to Melbourne for the 50th ASEAN-Australia Summit where the President iterated the position of the Philippines on regional and international issues. He was also there to thank the Australian government for its unwavering support for the rule of law.

In both Australian visits the President was accompanied by First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos.

President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr.

PBBM held bilateral meetings with the Prime Ministers of Cambodia and New Zealand to further strengthen cooperation. He also met with the Filipino community in Melbourne.

There are around 59,000 Filipinos who live in Melbourne, which comprises 19 percent of Filipino migrants in Australia. Filipinos comprise the fifth largest migrant community in Australia, with Sydney as host to the largest group.

Australia is the 11th largest source of Official Development Assistance (ODA) with grant commitments amounting to $180.4 million.

The President was able to secure $1.53 billion in investment pledges from 12 business deals signed during the Philippine Business Forum of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), held on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual.

The 12 business deals consist of 10 Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) between Filipino and Australian business leaders and two Letters of Intent (LOI) from Australian businessmen who want to invest in the country.

These MOU touched on a data center, battery manufacturing, decarbonization solutions and renewable energy, EV transportation, solid waste management, etc. — all, if not most, touching on business opportunities within the realm of ESG and Sustainability, including mining, critical metals and just energy transition.

The Philippine Business Forum served as the portal to showcase the country’s economic potential to Australian investors. PBBM himself urged Australian business leaders present to consider investing in the Philippines and welcomed opportunities for greater business and industrial cooperation between the Philippines and Australia.

My hats off to Trade Secretary Fred Pascual and his team for organizing the business delegation and the business forum; and, of course, all these would not have been possible without the arrangements and preparation being meticulously handled by Australian Ambassador H. K. Yu and Ma. Hellen De la Vega, Philippine Ambassador to Australia.

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