THE United States is making a pitch on behalf of US companies seeking to participate in the government’s ambitious infrastructure program.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh said she told a forum in Japan, attended by over 100 US and Japanese firms, that the US can enhance its longstanding partnership with the Philippines by helping develop its infrastructure.
She said participants showed “great interest” in contributing to the Philippines’ ‘Build, Build, Build’ program.
“The United States has a very long standing partnership with the Philippines. And I really think that now is the time to strengthen further and expand that partnership,” Ms. Singh said at the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.’s Wednesday luncheon in Makati City.
“We want the Philippine government to know there are many alternatives we’re looking to fulfil the infrastructure needs. We certainly hope that you would look to the United States as a very positive alternative. That its very much in your interest to explore,” she added.
Participation in Philippine infrastructure is part of a broader “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy which includes the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
The US hopes to boost honest government in the region and aid the nations involved in resisting threats to their sovereignty.
The US has committed about $113 million for its initial investment in the region. Among its priority areas for funding are infrastructure, energy, cybersecurity and finance.
“Our US Indo-Pacific strategy and the Japanese interest in the region is a perfect complement to that Build, Build, Build in the case of a need for better infrastructure, for better cybersystems, for energy development. US and Japanese companies are very well positioned to provide these needs,” Ms. Singh said, noting that a standing committee has been established to identify infrastructure priorities in the region.
For energy development, she said the US is planning to invest nearly $50 million this year on new programs to help US firms in the region.
“We want a sustainable future here in the Philippines and part of that is building an energy infrastructure that citizens can rely on,” Ms. Singh said.
Ms. Singh also cited the Trump administration’s Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) bill as a driver to streamline funding access by countries in that the US calls the “Indo-Pacific” region.
The primary purpose of the law is the creation of a new development finance institution that merges the credit authority of both the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the US Agency for International Development.
The OPIC aids US companies in emerging markets.
The BUILD bill is being harmonized by both chambers of the US Congress, and is expected to more than double OPIC’s current maximum contingent liability from $30 billion to about $60 billion and enable it to expand its international credit portfolio.
The government estimates the need for a total of $26 trillion to develop the Indo-Pacific region by 2030.
“And again we return to the private sector as the entities who can provide these needs. And American companies really are the ones who are going create sustainable conditions for your infrastructure needs moving forward,” Ms. Singh added. — Janina C. Lim