New Clark City short on US participation — DoF

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THE DEPARTMENT of Finance (DoF) said it questioned the lack of participation by US investors in the New Clark City project in a meeting with a State Department official.

In a statement, it said Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III met with Assistant Secretary Manisha Singh on Aug. 30, during which Mr. Dominguez noted the absence of US firms from New Clark City projects.

“Maybe they don’t have an interest here,” he added.

Ms. Singh, who oversees international economic and business affairs at the State Department, said she will speak with leaders of US infrastructure companies to tell them about investment opportunities in the Philippines.

“We would like to participate, we would like to engage,” Ms. Singh was quoted as saying, noting a “disconnect” in terms of US firms’ awareness of investment opportunities in the Philippines.

Sought for comment, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) Executive Director Ebb Hinchliffe said in an e-mail: “New Clark City is a fabulous and imaginative project. We certainly hope that American companies are or will become more fully aware of the opportunity and will invest there. To my knowledge, it has not been promoted to AmCham Philippines and our staff found no details on how to invest in the project.”

“We would note that American firms were the first to invest in Clark during the Ramos Administration and became the largest investor in Clark during the Macapagal-Arroyo Administration,” he added.

New Clark City is among the Duterte administration’s flagship infrastructure projects, and is being prepared to host key government headquarters as a means of decongesting Metro Manila.

The 9,450-hectare site will also host sports facilities and industrial parks. Clark International Airport will be its gateway and is soon getting a new passenger terminal and possibly a second runway. Also in the works are the Malolos-Clark and Subic-Clark rail lines.

Invitations to bid for the construction, operation, and maintenance of facilities in New Clark City were issued by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority late last year. Mr. Dominguez said that some US investors only participated in some design projects.

AlloyMTD, a unit of MTD Capital Berhad won the bid for the National Government Administrative Center and committed to complete the first phase by 2019.

Mr. Dominguez said the Philippines welcomes US companies as “their investments will prove beneficial for the country’s fast-growing economy.”

Ms. Singh said she will explore a possible tie-up between US and Japanese companies to invest in New Clark City.

Ms. Singh also briefed Mr. Dominguez on US President Donald J. Trump’s new Indo-Pacific Strategy, which aims to enhance US private sector participation in a region that includes Japan, India, the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia.

The plan involves improving digital connectivity and cybersecurity in the region, promoting sustainable infrastructure development, and strengthening energy security and access.

Mr. Dominguez said the Indo-Pacific Strategy is a “timely” effort as that bilateral trade between the Philippines and US has been expanding at a slow pace. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan