PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. secured $22 million (P1.3 billion) in investment pledges from Indonesian companies in the animal health, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital sectors, according to the Presidential Palace.

Mr. Marcos met with top executives of Indonesian companies on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Jakarta.

In a statement, the Palace said PT Vaksindo Satwa Nusantara is planning to invest $2 million as it works with Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare Company Philippines (UNAHCO, Inc.) on veterinary vaccines. The company, known as Indonesia’s first animal vaccine maker, is expected to provide the Philippines with an avian influenza vaccine.

Mr. Marcos also met with executives of PT WIR Asia Tbk, described as the first metaverse company in Indonesia. WIR’s subsidiary PT Mata Nilai Republik is planning to invest $20 million in the Philippines in the next five years.

The President also met with executives of satellite company Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN). PSN last year signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with WIT Philippines, Inc., which would involve the launch of a satellite by December that would help improve digital connectivity in the country.

Mr. Marcos’ business meetings were led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through the Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Jakarta.

“The meetings were a follow-up to the President’s state visit to Indonesia, aimed to forge strategic linkages and partnerships between the Philippines and Indonesia in key sectors, such as agriculture, specifically animal vaccine manufacturing, digital technology, and innovation,” the DTI said in a statement.

Separately, the Palace said the Philippine private sector had signed a deal with its Southeast Asian counterparts to improve ties in agriculture and small business development, as the region seeks to promote economic integration.

The memorandum of understanding signed by members of the ASEAN-Business Advisory Council (BAC) aims to jointly conduct studies and mentorship opportunities for potential agriculture, agriculture technology, food security, agri-preneurship business models and value chain development among small, medium, and large farmers, enterprises, and government entities.

The development of trade and investment opportunities in various agricultural commodities including rubber, rice, corn, fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural services is expected under the joint cooperation, the DTI said.

Separate MOUs were signed for each cooperation with Thailand, Brunei, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia through their respective ASEAN-BAC representatives.

The Philippines was represented by ASEAN-BAC Philippines Chairman Jose Ma. Concepcion III, a member of Mr. Marcos’ Private Sector Advisory Council.

“All member states also agreed to jointly promote effective strategies in addressing climate change and ensure a sustainable agribusiness environment,” the Palace said.

Speaking at the ASEAN-BAC roundtable dialogue, Mr. Marcos said the Philippines seeks to deepen economic ties with ASEAN countries through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

“It is a catalyst that is seen to bring in even more collaboration amongst ASEAN member states,” he said. “We are positive that RCEP will further deepen economic integration and significantly contribute to the economic growth of the region.”

RCEP, which covers nearly a third of the global population and about 30% of its global gross domestic product, took effect locally on June 2. Participating countries include the members of ASEAN, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

The trade deal is heavily supported by China, whose trade with member countries, according to a May 2022 analysis from China Briefing, accounted for 30.4% of Beijing’s total foreign trade value.

Critics of RCEP have already warned that the trade deal would only make the Philippines heavily reliant on imports from China and prevent the Southeast Asian nation from pursuing trade diversification. — K.A.T. Atienza