Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Brian L. Goldbeck
Remarks to the Annual General Meeting of the
American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines
September 24, 2014
It’s a pleasure to be here and to have the opportunity to say a few words at AmCham’s annual general meeting.
The Embassy and AmCham have a strong partnership that goes back many years and it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to look back at what we have accomplished over the past year and at the challenges and opportunities facing us in the coming year.
Without a doubt the biggest and most challenging event of the past year was Typhoon Yolanda, known internationally as Haiyan. We all remember how Yolanda, the strongest storm ever to make landfall, tore through the Philippines, wreaking havoc in Samar, Leyte, and the Central Visayas.
I am very proud of our collective response to Yolanda. The American business community and U.S. government, working together, acted quickly to assist the Filipino people. In the Philippines’ hour of need, we showed that America is a steadfast and reliable ally.
In the wake of Yolanda’s devastation, the U.S. government pledged a little over $90.5 million in assistance. Working with the Philippine government and NGOs, we delivered humanitarian assistance immediately after the typhoon struck.
We continue to provide needed support, amounting to an additional $52 million. This includes technical and equipment assistance to the office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, headed by Ping Lacson. Our assistance to this office enabled the Philippine Government to develop recovery plans for all the affected cities and municipalities and to monitor their implementation.
The contribution of the American private sector in Yolanda’s immediate aftermath and during the rehabilitation and recovery phase was equally impressive. After Yolanda hit, the Embassy was inundated with offers of assistance. Many American Chamber members were among those leading the private sector response, and it’s worth mentioning a few examples:
- Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Tacloban provided urgently needed water after the typhoon hit. Coke also allowed its trucks to be used for the distribution of humanitarian relief in the days after the typhoon and before trucks from Luzon were able to reach Tacloban.
- FedEx helped deliver more than $10 million in relief aid and medical supplies to Cebu and Leyte. FedEx also delivered water filtration systems capable of filtering more than 5,000 gallons of water a day to areas affected by the storm.
- Chevron donated $1.5 million to the Philippine Red Cross.
- Ford donated vehicles to support disaster relief operations, including ambulances and fire trucks.
- Cargill invested $250,000 to assist coconut farming communities in Leyte affected by the storm.
These are just a few examples – the list is almost endless and is a testament to the public spirit and generosity of the American business community in the Philippines.
High Level Visits and TPP
AmCham and the Embassy also partnered to support Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to Manila in December of last year.
For me, the highlight of Secretary Kerry’s visit was his coffee with AmCham and the Philippine business community. The coffee gave us a chance to showcase the Embassy’s work on Yolanda relief with the business community and to discuss our highest economic priority in the region, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Secretary Kerry’s visit helped lay the foundation for two other VIPs: Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and the ultimate VVIP, President Obama.
Secretary Pritzker’s visit, the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of Commerce in nearly 19 years, highlighted the United States’ enduring commitment to deepening economic engagement with the Philippines and in the ASEAN region. I want to thank AmCham for its cooperation and hospitality in serving as the host for Secretary Pritzker’s speech to your members.
President Obama’s April visit helped underscore the historic and strong relationship between the United States and the Philippines. The visit culminated in the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, and President Obama’s affirmation that our commitment to the Philippines’ security is “ironclad.” This agreement modernizes our alliance to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.
President Obama voiced support for the Philippines’ efforts to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea peacefully, and in accordance with international law. As AmCham members know very well, stability in this critical waterway, including freedom of navigation and overflight, is critical to the region’s prosperity.
In their bilateral meeting, the two Presidents discussed the shared burden of addressing climate change. We are working closely with the Philippine government to lay the foundation for an aggressive climate change agreement in 2015 in which all countries – developed and developing – contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The discussion on climate change is part of a broader dialogue between the United States and the Philippines on how science and technology can help us reach our goal of shared prosperity.
The Philippines and the United States enjoy a long and robust scientific partnership which we are working to deepen and expand. At the end of October, the Philippine Department of Science and Technology will host the inaugural meeting of the Joint Committee established by the Philippine-U.S. Science and Technology Agreement.
The meeting will facilitate collaboration in the areas of climate and disaster resilience, marine biodiversity, health research, and “improving science” – a cross-cutting engagement that includes education, public policy, and the way scientific research “gets done right.”
The Joint Committee process complements the wide-ranging and informal science cooperation that occurs every day between the Philippines and the United States. Much of this informal cooperation is driven by the private sector, to include corporations, universities, and NGOs. Thanks for all that you do in this regard.
Looking Forward – APEC
Of course, all of these visits are simply a taste of what’s to come.
We look forward to working with the Philippine government and with AmCham as the Philippines embarks on the work of hosting APEC in 2015. This will be a truly massive undertaking – the Philippines will host more than one hundred APEC meetings in the year leading up to the APEC leaders’ meeting here in Manila next November.
If you think Manila’s traffic is bad now – wait until you see what happens when 21 APEC leaders and their motorcades are added to the mix! In all seriousness, we’ve already been in touch with the government and private sector about preparations for APEC, and it promises to be a great year for the Philippines.
Hosting APEC provides the Philippines with a unique chance to highlight all of the positive changes and economic growth that have taken place since the Philippines last hosted APEC in 1996. Filipinos are justifiably proud of their country’s growth and dynamism, and APEC gives them a turn at the center of the world stage.
We look forward to discussions on how APEC member economies can work to ensure that the benefits of international commerce and economic growth are felt throughout the economy, including by entrepreneurs and SMEs. Realizing the full potential of these groups is essential to sustained economic growth across the breadth of society, and we are looking forward to some good discussions.
APEC will launch a new program, the APEC Scholarships, in the coming year. These one-year scholarships will allow students from APEC’s 21 member economies to study in another member economy. We expect that these scholarships will lead to increased mutual understanding between citizens of different APEC members and lead to increased trade and cooperation down the road. We will be reaching out to AmCham to discuss ways in which you can support the scholarship program.
In closing, let me thank you all for having me here today.
As I said at the beginning of these remarks, our partnership with AmCham is a strong one. In many ways, you are our window into what the private sector thinks of the business environment here and of the direction in which this country is headed. I have had the pleasure of hosting quarterly roundtables with AmCham members on various themes, and look forward to more such discussions in the year ahead.
Our door is always open, and we look forward to continuing our partnership in the future.