MANILA -- Manila's engagement with Washington on political and security issues "are as robust" as the two parties' economic relationship, said Philippine Ambassador to US Jose Manuel Romualdez on Tuesday.
In a year-end report at the Philippine Embassy, Romualdez identified counterterrorism and counter-narcotics as the primary focus of the two states' bilateral cooperation for 2018, emphasizing that it is to the interest of both the Philippines and the United States to eliminate the threats posed by terrorism and the illegal drugs trade.
On campaign against illegal drugs, he said there had been a lot of information sharing and other types of cooperation between law enforcers of the US and the Philippines.
On the liberation of Marawi City from Islamic State-affiliated terrorists, Romualdez said "close" and "timely assistance" of the US to the Philippine government have contributed significantly.
“It is said that security and economic development are two sides of the same coin. Our partnership with the US on political and security issues are just as robust as the economic relationship,” he said.
Given "sustained economic growth and economic prosperity are underpinned by political stability," Romualdez also said that the Philippines is committed to work with its allies in addressing security threats and challenges in the region such as the South China Sea dispute and tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
On the latter, he said the Philippines remains "gravely concerned" over the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's provocative actions "which only serve to raise tension in the region."
"We support relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions imposed sanctions against North Korea," he said.
On South China Sea, he said the Philippines is optimistic about the conclusion of the Code of Conduct and the long-term benefit it would have in the peace and stability in the area.
PH CONTINUES TO ATTRACT US COMPANIES
Romualdez’s year-end briefing for US government officials, private sector representatives, and members of the Filipino community also focused on the positive reforms and trends in the Philippine economy, which has achieved greater than 6 percent growth for the past nine quarters.
At the event, US-ASEAN Business Council President and CEO, Alex Feldman said "the impressive economic growth that the Philippines has experienced over the last year and the predictions that it will continue into 2018 are the types of economic fundamentals that have attracted over $3.3 billion in American foreign direct investment to the Philippines."
He said this is seen to attract US companies to the Philippines in the months and years ahead.
“Major initiatives to improve the business environment, such as the ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure development program and efforts to ease restrictions on foreign ownership in key sectors, will only make the Philippines an even more attractive destination for American corporations," he said.
Romualdez said infrastructure development was highlighted as a top priority for the Duterte administration.
“The Administration’s goal is to invest over US$170 billion in six years. By 2022, the government is expected to spend nearly US$38 billion, or 7.4% of GDP, on infrastructure alone,” the envoy stated.
“Our economic managers emphasize the multiplier and expansionary effects that investment in infrastructure and construction."
"The goal of the administration is to continue stimulating investment in the modernization of urban areas in Manila, while incentivizing greater investment in the rural areas,” he added.
On trade relations, Romualdez said US was the country's third largest trading partner and second biggest market for Philippine exports in 2016.
In efforts to maintain and boost this, he mentioned that preliminary internal consultations have begun on a potential bilateral Free Trade Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
Romualdez, appointed in July 2017, has recently assumed his role as envoy to the US after presenting his credentials to US President Donald Trump on November 29, 2017. (PNA)