We’re no longer as important to US business



Perhaps President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot away from the US, whether he knows it or not, has a strong base in the economy and geopolitics.

In terms of the size of US investment in the Philippines, we’ve become practically of little importance, a drastic change from the situation in the 1980s. Why should its political leaders concern themselves about us?
Consider the cold facts:

In 1982, the value of US investment in the country was $1.3 billion. That may seem small but that meant we were the fourth largest site for American capital in Asia and Pacific. In the world, we ranked 31st.

Last year, the stock of US investments totaled $4.7 billion. But that meant we had become the least preferred site for US capital in Asia-Pacific. That amount was small change compared with the US business investment in Singapore ($229 billion), Japan ($108 billion), and, of course, China ($75 billion). US investments in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are more than double ours.


(And if you’re going to say that that’s because we have restrictions on foreign investments, the fact is that the only restriction in our Constitution is that on telecom and power, but these sectors are controlled by foreigners, in the case of telecom by magnate Anthoni Salim of Indonesia and by Singapore state firm Singtel. These Asian countries, which have received bigger US investments, have de facto bans on foreign capital dominance in their telecom and power sectors. There are other reasons why we have smaller foreign investments.)

In terms of world ranking, we are practically in the bottom, in the 52nd slot of 60 countries in the world as preferred sites for US investments. Believe it or not, countries like Nigeria, Peru and the Czech Republic (with a population of only 10 million) have bigger US investments than ours.

The world has changed, yet most Filipinos still believe we are important to US capitalism. Grow up! We’re not.
Geopolitics? We were definitely strategic to US’ military projection right after World War II. That was the era of aircraft carriers with their fighter planes and B-52 bombers, as well as the global Cold War and the hot war in Southeast Asia, which made our Clark and Subic Air Bases so important. .

The 21st century is the era of long-range nuclear submarines, ICBMs, and maybe even satellite-based battle stations with electromagnetic and laser weapons. Asia has ceased to be an arena of the Cold War. China, the biggest threat to US “imperialism” after World War II, has received American investments of $75 billion, being the most preferred investment site by the US, after Singapore ($229 billion) and Japan ($109 billion).

Data on the stock of US investments, which I got from the US Department of Commerce, is interesting and useful.

The size of US capital in the Philippines reached its peak in 2007, when this amounted to $7 billion. This was during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term, when the Yellow Cult was throwing everything but the kitchen sink against her.

This was also the time when the Philippines actually started to pivot to China, under Arroyo’s direction, and was starting to get huge Chinese low-interest government loans for its infrastructure projects. Yet, she still obviously attracted US capital. This was because she had strengthened the country’s economy, which is the most important factor that makes the country attractive to capital from any country.

US investments in the country, however, declined under President Benigno Aquino 3rd, despite his subservience to the US. Our ambassador to the US, Jose Cuisia, even served as a board member of US-affiliated firms, while his foreign secretary, Albert del Rosario, has been one of the most pro-US foreign secretaries the country has seen.

Aquino even became the American lackey in the South China Sea dispute, which the US had no business being involved in as it wasn’t a claimant to any territory there. Under del Rosario’s direction, the Philippines filed a case in the international Arbitration Court against China’s claims in the area.

Yes, we won the case, but what good has it brought us, what concrete thing has it achieved for claimants in the disputed Spratly islands?

For all our being the US manservant in Asia, did US businessmen rush to the Philippines?

From $5.4 billion in 2010, the stock of US investments fell by $700 million to $4.7 billion at the end of 2015. In comparison, US investments in Indonesia grew $3 billion and Malaysia $2 billion. Maybe Duterte is using reverse psychology in dealing with the Americans?

Our only real importance to the US is the more than 2 million Filipino immigrants to the US, the fourth biggest, after Mexicans (12 million), Chinese (2.5 million) and Indians (2.2 million).

But then the “arrow” of influence in that situation has been reversed. Yes these Filipinos in the US account for about half of the more than $24 billion in migrant and OFW remittances, as US Ambassador Philip Goldberg relished in pointing out, as if we should be thankful to the US government for these.

But these immigrants are citizens, with Filipinos having one of the highest rates of getting US citizenship, which means that theoretically, Filipinos should have some clout on US policy. Instead of spending their time criticizing the country for this and that in blogs and Facebook, and pontificating on what Filipinos here should do, Fil-Ams should devote their time and efforts ending their petty sectarian disputes, and unify as one political force in the US.

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
Facebook: Rigoberto D. Tiglao
Twitter; @bobitiglao


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  1. Well considering that investment from the US still constitutes the bulk of investment in the country, that only means one thing. It means that not just US investment is falling behind compared to other countries. That’s sad.
    So maybe for context the total foreign investment to the philppines compared to other countries – should be included.

  2. The government red tapes, the fixers, the need for ” under the table” or bribery of corrupt government officials have made the Philippines a harder place to conduct business in even if the economic policies are attractive for foreign investors. I probably cannot blame US companies if they’d prefer to conduct businesses some place else. However, what I dislike about US is their obvious favor in the political party that is the most corrupt in the country. So, how can we prosper if these corrupt officials stay in power?

    Obama has many foreign policy flubs. Philippines is just another one to chalk in. America’s influence is also weakening and it can be felt all over the world. Now, given the present scenario, that a democratically hailed president is a populist, there’s not much room for US’ interests to be given much priority.

    I mean, keeping the VFA would be more benefitial to the Philippines if China would not agree to have bilateral talks. In fact, they have been wanting to since 2012. VFA would only be benefitial to us if we are not successful in obtaining peace with China, but we did. So, who will benefit more from VFA now? Is it us? Certainly not.

    However we put it, that US has taken the Philippines for granted, it still doesn’t change the fact that given how young our nation is, we have a lot more to do. Maybe our mendicant foreign policy is to blame. We rely too much in the West. I’m not saying it is the West’s fault though. That’s why i think it’s best that we separate ourselves and pursue and independent foreign policy.

  3. “Yes these Filipinos in the US account for about half of the more than $24 billion in migrant and OFW remittances”

    You may want to check this. everyone in the remittance business know this is false. Majority of the remittances coming from the US is actually from the middle east being coursed thru US banks.

  4. You heard it pinoys in States, buzzed off mind your own business work on your visa as some of your are illegals anyway. You can`t even organize yourselves, have you ever heard of too many pinoy organizations only in states an Canada…while others have one or two organizations.

    Nothing but crab mental typical pinoys pati gov`t nang Phils. nakikialam, just like some of us knows everything kuno…

  5. Bobbi Tiglao thank you for said piece. The article simply states that the PH is a weak state or ruling class plus the US attitude of ‘matapobre,.’

  6. Funny! As if there’s no other related issues like rampant corruption???. Tanggalin ng gobyerno mo Ang corruption O kahit pababain Lang dadagsa bigla Ang US investment dyan.. Isama mo pa Ang katakut takot na red tape. At higit sa lahat Ang 60/40. Nakakatawa Ang article Na Ito. Ikaw Na Ang nag mention ng Mga countries Kung Saan malaki Ang investment ng America, lahat sila Ay less Ang corruption compare sa Pinas at less Ang red tape .?

    • The problem in all of this IS corruption. The drugs situation is only one of a long string of issues that keep us from having the kind of country any businessmen would want to invest in. Your idols in the other party wouldnt even mention the drug trafficking issue in the 6 years they lorded it over everyone else, nor would they be caught dead actually working on reducing corruption or red tape lest they step on the toes of one of their own looking to make a quick buck.

      Face it : we hadnt been a good place to do business in since Arroyo’s time. Besides, tell us all about how the DILG performed in PNOYs last 2 years and how it benefited the country. Now THATs funny.

    • Indonesia and Malaysia no corruption? WTF are you smoking? You didn’t even read that 60/40 is not on all business types? Read the article first. lmao

    • it is being there before this administration takes over… umasa na lang tayo na they will eliminate these but the problem is the oligarch with the help of SC and colonial mentality politicians na they will do anything to obstruct the good intentions of this government. Hope for the best na lang otherwise we remain poor eternally.

    • So you mean mas lumala ang corruption at red tape sa panahon ni noynoy? Paangat na sana sa panahon arroyo ang investment ng US, bumaba sa panahon ni pnoy.

    • o sige mag-aral ka na muna para malaman mo kung pano tanggalin. feeling mo naman parang nagbubukas ka ng takip ng softdrinks. you guys think that governance is pretty simple huh? don’t be that dumb please, RESEARCH muna. andami mong kwento wala namang kwenta. you’re much funnier for seeing this as funny.

  7. The US business investments in the PH grow based on business decisions.

    The factors in favor of doing business in the PH are: English speaking. Lower wage than US. Abundant labor force. Low cost of land and buildings.

    The factors not in favor of doing business in the PH are: High electricity cost. The need for PH “partners” and “fixers”. Graft is forbidden by US companies.

    Manufacturing companies (most have high electricity usage) always had results that showed other countries could produce at a lower cost. That was due to the electricity cost.

    So the PH was attractive to only open offices and assembly plants. Real manufacturing plants like ore processing, steel mills, and parts production always went somewhere else.

    Politics do not enter into a decision unless the political climate is so uncertain that an investment could be lost.

    Our OFWs are busy making a new home in the US. They can show concern about the PH but they have little if any time to devote to politics, either in the US or in the PH.

  8. We cannot control US investors. That is their decision. It is not the presidents fault if they do not like to invest here. The job of the president is to attract foreign investors by making the business climate favorable to investors. But if they do not want to invest here, so be it. The only problem is not to drive them out of the country. They must be comfortable investing here.

    • The Great Defiant on

      they can stay unless they don’t intervene and lectured us on how to run this country. otherwise, we will get rid of the rats in the house and flu7sh them to the oceans.

  9. US Vice President Joe Biden’, in a major policy speech during his recent Australian visit last July, 2016, made it clear that, “The US has been and intends to be a Pacific power”. That was at the time when countries, especially partners and allies of the US, are beginning to see that they seem to be losing their grip and influence in both the Pacific and the EU . Any political observer can discern from his speech that they are threatened and worried over this. It is ironic indeed that previous to this, their plan to implement the proposed TPP, which was meant to counter such threat, did not include the Philippines when most countries that stradle both sides of the Pacific rim were invited and included in said alliance. Filipinos must feel bad that a “long time ally and friend” has been bypassed, ignored or simply taken for granted in this “plan for progress”. I guess a lot of head scratching is now going on in the White House on how a stupid mistake, or should I say, bigotted move like this happened. The Philippine president, wittingly or not, seem to have “enlightened” or simply provided an impetus for other countries like Malaysia, to break off from the proposed treaty, Now we beginning to them like domino blocks faling one after the other. The world is now watching with interest on what the next US President will be doing to clean up all this mess.

    • If you take a closer look the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not as good for humanity as you may think. It is a secretive, multinational trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement.

      It was conceived as an instrument of the New Word Order, what it means to do is destroy national sovereignty and criminalize free expression and free thought in the digital world. Come to think of it there is no aspect of modern transaction that is not interconnected to this “matrix” world we live in is there? Thus Complete control over it would mean control of the world, so then NWO becomes realized.

      Du30 says he is opposed to the west, what he is really fighting against is the NWO plan.

  10. As a consultant to US West Coast firm in regards to overseas employment… Philippines has been very high on the charts.. China was used to first build an economy there and second the move manufacturing to nurture the economy and create buyers. The issue here is that now robotics along with better governments in Latin and South America are becoming more attractive and there will be a long-term down turn in off shore manufacturing. IN short those that have gone, have already gone. Now is the second wave with Philippine. The country is one of the few good English speaking countries and with high speed lines finally in place the ability to offshore direct communication labor position is just coming of age. The Philippine has been primed for really good long-term jobs that cannot be replaced by robots or low cost Latin countries. Second the first big wave of Filipinos to America was directly associated with the Military. San Diego California is home to thousands of US Navy retired Filipinos as example. Second wave was/is nursing and now the big news is Filipinos coming to the US to fill much needed teacher positions. Then comes along du30.. my desk has come to a screeching HALT… This is NOT good for anybody involved. New meeting are discussion South Africa for BPO which to me is nuts, but the gov at least in relationships with the US is very stable. I will say the author is VERY correct that FIl-AM need to band together and make a lot more noise here politically. There two or three members of the US congress that are Filipino (Las Vegas as example has representation from a Fil-Am). But compared to other countries they are very quiet. Singapour is truly in direct relationship to China because of the shipping hub.. The Philippines has been poised to have massive growth from US and EU business for all the right reasons. Sorry it has taken so long, however it took a while to get those high speed communication going. I pray for the Philippines, I hope all settles down, I really don’t want to be flying back and forth to Johannesburg… Especially when I have so many wonderful friends in Manila :)

  11. As a political force for what? The foreign policy of the Philippine Government, which just happens to be the same as whoever is President of the Philippines? Or a political force for themselves here in the United States. Once one becomes a citizen of the United States the petty bickerings of this or that group in the Philippines ceases to have much meaning.

    • The problem of Filipinos that are now US citizens is they are not united. Most Pilipinos in the US are Republican, but knowing the Republican party, they are anti immigrant and anti universal health plan. So the candidates do not care about Pilipino voters because they are divided and is not a force to even bother with.

  12. Roberto Saguing on

    Filipinos in the USA spends their time on FB teaching our leaders how to do this and that … instead of organizing themselves to help the motherland. This piece shows that President Duterte’s move for bilateral relations with China is the right move.

  13. That is what is wrong with Filipinos in the United States of America. They are regionalistic and not only that, if t they want to run for a certain position in an o organizationband they lost, they will establish a new organization where they will become an officer thereby dividing them evenmore.