President Aquino brings home $2.5 B investments from US-UK trip

President Benigno Aquino III brought home $2.5 billion-worth of investments from his recent foreign trips in United Kingdom and USA.

In his speech upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Sunday, June 10, Mr. Aquino said the bulk of the committed investments, or around $1.5 billion, were in power generation and transportation and included the following:

 a $500-600 million pledge by Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp., majority owned by commodities trading giant Glencore, to expand its smelting capacity and build a power plant to support its operations;

$150-million agreement between Aboitiz Equity ventures and GazAsia Ltd. creating Asea Gaz Corp., which will develop a plant that will convert organic waste into liquid methane;

 an agreement between Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. with the Philippine government to explore the potential of building a liquefied natural gas terminal in Batangas; and

a $280-million memorandum of understanding between Rolls Royce Holdings PLC, a global power systems company, and Cebu Pacific on the acquisition of new Trent 700 engines for up to eight leased Airbus aircraft that will be used on long-haul flights to be launched in the second half of 2013.

Officials of Nestle SA, meanwhile, reiterated a plan to increase investments in the Philippines, particularly on raising coffee sourced from local farmers.

The remaining $1 billion in secured investment pledges, said Mr. Aquino will come from companies whose officials he met in the US.

Sithe Global Denham and GNPower Ltd. Co. are looking at construction of additional coal-fired power plants in Mariveles, Bataan, while Underwriters Laboratories pledged that the Philippines would be one of the Asian locations for the expansion of its research and development facilities.

"Overall, we expect at least $2.5 billion in investments to come in to the country from Britain and the US. This means jobs ... that will bring food to the tables," Mr. Aquino said.

The president also claimed that "along with good news for the economy, the trip has also resulted in enhanced political and economic ties with UK and the US."

British Prime Minister David Cameron promised continued support to the peace process in Mindanao. The UK is a member of the International Contact Group that facilitates peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

US Aid

Talks with US President Barack Obama at the Oval Office, meanwhile, were highlighted by discussions on defense and security cooperation as Washington shifts its military focus to Asia.

Mr. Obama said the US would help the Philippines beef up its antiquated materiel and build a "minimum credible defense posture," while stressing the importance of diplomacy in resolving tensions in the South China Sea.

"President Obama himself stressed the importance of the Philippines as an ally. We are partners in pushing for freedom of navigation in the West Philippines Sea," Mr. Aquino said.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who also met Mr. Aquino in Washington, said the US would help the Philippines build a National Coast Watch System to enhance maritime security.

"The president makes sure that whatever expenses are incurred will be returned by way of investments---the investments that we get whenever the President goes out of the country," presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview.

Aquino also reported that during his US trip; he was informed that the Philippines have become a beneficiary of the debt-for-nature swap. The country does not have to pay its $23 million-worth of debts to the US government, and instead the Aquino government could just channel it to tree planting activities in the country.

The Philippines also received an additional $30 million under its Partnership for Growth program with the US for poverty alleviation.

Aquino added that President Barack Obama himself "stressed the importance of the Philippines as an ally" with a shared interest to maintain freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Aquino that they will help construct a Coast Watch system and deploy additional Peace Corps volunteers in the country.

"These will come a long way in protecting our shores," Aquino said.

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