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Saturday, October 21, 2023

Marcos bags $4.26B deals in Saudi Arabia

(UPDATE) RIYADH: The Philippines has secured about $4.26 billion worth of investments during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

Four agreements between Saudi firms and Filipino companies were signed during Marcos’ roundtable meeting with Saudi business leaders on Thursday in Riyadh.

The biggest of the four is the $3.7 billion deal between Al-Jeer Human Resources Co. (ARCO) and Association of Philippine Licensed Agencies for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to provide jobs for Filipinos in the kingdom, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

THE PRINCE AND THE PRESIDENT The Crown Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (center), meets President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the sidelines of the 1st Asean-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, to discuss labor relations between the two countries. PHOTO BY PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

THE PRINCE AND THE PRESIDENT The Crown Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (center), meets President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the sidelines of the 1st Asean-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, to discuss labor relations between the two countries. PHOTO BY PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

The agreement is expected to create more than 200,000 jobs to drive Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Also signed was the agreement between Al Rushaid Petroleum Investment Co. and Samsung Engineering NEC Co. Ltd., and the Filipino firm EEI Corp. to set up a training facility in Tanza, Cavite, worth $120 million.

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Offering courses in masonry, carpentry, electrical, welding, equipment management, warehousing, steel fabrication, and other construction-related crafts, the deal aims to train at least 2,000 Filipinos starting in 2024 and more than 15,000 in the next five years.

Two separate agreements between Maharah Human Resources Co. of Saudi and Filipino firms Staffhouse International Resources Corp., and E-GMP International Corp. were each valued at an estimated $191 million.

Both pacts seek to send 10,000 Filipino workers annually to the kingdom until 2030.

In his speech during the roundtable, the President also announced that $120 million worth of deals will be signed between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia. He did not elaborate.

“With an estimated value of over $120 million, the agreements that will be signed today are set to benefit more than 15,000 Filipinos in training and employment opportunities across a wide range of professions in the construction industry,” Marcos said.

He said his meeting with top Saudi business leaders comes at a time when the Philippine economy “continues its high growth trajectory,” citing the 7.6 percent gross domestic product in 2022, which is deemed “the fastest rate of growth recorded by the Philippines since 1976.”

The President also noted that foreign direct investments (FDIs) reached $9.2 billion last year.

The financial and banking sectors are “healthy and robust,” he said, and the country’s credit rating continues to receive “stable and positive” investment grades.

“I assure you that the Philippine government is steadfast in its commitment to continuously support current and prospective Saudi investors,” he said.

Marcos said he is looking forward to building “greater and closer” partnerships with Saudi Arabia, which has “the largest population of overseas Filipinos in the world.”

Saudi Arabia hosts about 1 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), as well as the largest community of Filipino professionals in such industries as engineering, architecture and health care.

The President said the Foreign Investments Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Public Services Act, and the Renewable Energy Act aim to attract foreign investors in telecommunications, port operations, transportation, and clean energy, among others.

He said the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act enables foreign investors to enjoy fiscal incentives.

The President also hoped that the Philippines and Saudi Arabia would strengthen their ties not just in trade but also in other sectors, such as telecommunications, health care, energy and agriculture.

“We should not limit ourselves alone to the labor market. We should also explore the new businesses that have come up since the end of the pandemic economy,” he said.

In his presentation during the roundtable, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that among the Marcos administration’s thrust is to attract direct equity investment from local and global funds, carry out co-financing and knowledge-sharing with other sovereign wealth funds, accelerate the implementation of the 197 infrastructure flagship projects, and invest in emerging megatrends such as digitalization, ESG and health care.

The infrastructure flagship projects worth around $153 billion involve water resources, $14.6 billion; digital connectivity, $1.7 billion; agriculture, $11.2 billion; physical connectivity, $122.5 billion; health, $2.3 billion; power and energy, $180 million; and other infrastructures, $750 million.

Diokno said the appropriate and realistic fund sources include Maharlika Investment Corp.’s $8.8 billion authorized capital stock, composed of $6.6 billion in common shares and $2.2 billion in preferred shares.

He assured businesses of transparency and accountability through financial reporting and audit measures.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who accompanied the President during the Saudi visit, said the signing of the agreements, “which promises a far-reaching impact on the Philippine economy and on the lives of our workers, is a monumental achievement of President Marcos.”

Marcos flew to Riyadh to attend the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Gulf Cooperation Council (Asean-GCC) Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia.

The Asean and GCC nations, which comprise Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, established ties in 1990.

The summit is the first of its kind that is geared toward advancing areas of mutual interests such as energy security, food stability and economic cooperation, among others.

During the roundtable, at least two of Saudi Arabia’s biggest investment companies expressed interest in the Philippines’ Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said on Friday.

Garafil said Mulhan Albakree, executive general manager of the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Bandar Al Hamali, CEO of Jada, were interested in the MIF.

The Public Investment Fund is the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, which is among the largest in the world.

In his opening remarks, Saudi Ministry of Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih stressed that Saudi investors are eager to learn from the Philippines’ finances being one of the “most exciting markets” in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

“We want to connect you to key Saudi investors with impressive success stories to share and with the desire to continue building with international presence by investing with partners across the globe, the Philippines being a key one,” Al-Falih said.

He praised the Philippine government’s efforts to make the country a cashless society by 2030.

Marcos urged Saudi businessmen to invest in the MIF for infrastructure projects.

“We look forward to benefiting not just from Saudi investments but also from the Kingdom’s extensive experience in managing such funds,” he said.

The President made a pitch for the MIF event after he suspended the implementation of the law, pending a review of its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

Just before leaving for Riyadh on Thursday, he denied that his administration has put the fund on hold, and said “the concept of Maharlika Fund remains a good one,” and reiterated that the government remained “committed to having it operational before the end of the year.”

“The organization of the Maharlika Fund proceeds apace. And what I have done, though, is that we have found more improvements we can make, specifically to the organizational structure of the Maharlika Fund,” Marcos said.

The President is expected to fly home on Saturday afternoon.

Michael Maren
Michael Maren
Former marine biologist who likes to spend as much time in the tropics as possible, due to a horrible time I once had in Alaska. Brrrr.

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