UK assures Philippines of more investments
LONDON—British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday assured President Benigno Aquino of his government’s continued support for the Philippines’ public-private partnership program (PPP) and said he looked forward to more British companies investing in the country.
Cameron received Mr. Aquino at No. 10 Downing Street Wednesday morning. It was the last day of Mr. Aquino’s three-day visit aimed at enhancing trade and economic relations between the Philippines and the United Kingdom, the third largest economy in Europe after Germany and France.
On Tuesday, Mr. Aquino met with the Filipinos in London and told them that the removal of Renato Corona as Chief Justice of the Philippines last week signaled the restoration of accountability of public officials in the country.
Mr. Aquino laughed off Corona’s plan of doing the lecture circuit speaking about transparency.
Saying he wanted to speak from the heart, the President discarded a prepared statement and explained why his administration went after Corona and his benefactor, former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
He said Arroyo violated the constitutional prohibition on midnight appointments by naming Corona Chief Justice as she was ending her term. He said Corona, in turn, violated the financial disclosure law by concealing 98 percent of his wealth from the public.
The President read to his audience Section 17 Article 11 of the Constitution which requires all public servants to disclose all their wealth by submitting statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs). He said Corona declared only 1.9 percent of his assets.
“It would have been understandable if you forgot 2 percent, but not 98 percent,” he said.
“Now we read in the newspapers that he will go around to lecture on transparency,” he added, drawing laughter from his audience.
The President said his critics were daring him to sign a waiver so that anyone could examine his bank accounts. He said he had already submitted his SALN and his net worth had increased because of the inheritance he had received from his late parents.
In his meeting with Cameron, Mr. Aquino conveyed through the British leader the “best wishes of the Filipino people” for Queen Elizabeth II on the 60th anniversary of her reign.
Mr. Aquino met with Cameron a day after he presided over business meetings where deals amounting to $1.03 billion were signed with British companies.
Present at the meeting between the President and Cameron were British Secretary of State William Hague; Peter Wilson, director for Asia Pacific of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO); and British Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie.
Mr. Aquino was to leave Wednesday night (Thursday morning in Manila) for Washington, where he would have a one-on-one meeting with US President Barack Obama.
Mr. Aquino told Cameron that the Philippines offered “exciting investment opportunities for British business, especially in energy, infrastructure, business-process outsourcing, information technology and tourism.”
The President said his administration was determined to ensure a “positive, transparent and predictable environment” for foreign investors.
“Prime Minister Cameron noted that the British government had provided, and would continue to provide, expertise to the Philippines in shaping its PPP program and looked forward to British companies participating in projects,” a joint statement issued after the meeting said.
“The two leaders agreed to further expand economic cooperation to pave the way for increased trade and investment flows between the two countries,” it said.
Mr. Aquino also updated Cameron on the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and thanked Cameron for the United Kingdom’s active role as founding member of the International Contract Group that supported the peace process.
“In turn, Prime Minister Cameron reiterated the commitment of the United Kingdom to continue assisting in the Mindanao peace process, including through the sharing of lessons learned in the Northern Ireland peace process,” the statement said.
It said Cameron welcomed the Philippines’ leading role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and that the two of them agreed that Asean had a “crucial role to play in promoting prosperity and development in Asia, including by working with its partners to resolve regional disputes peacefully.”
The two leaders agreed that good government was necessary in dealing with poverty and fostering economic growth and that links between the British and the Filipino peoples must be fostered. There are 250,000 Filipinos in the United Kingdom and 15,000 Britons in the Philippines.
Mr. Aquino invited Cameron to visit the Philippines.
The President did not have an audience with Queen Elizabeth II, who commemorated her 60th year on the throne with four days of royal festivities that ended on Tuesday. But she threw a luncheon at Lancaster House for his visit, with FCO Minister Jeremy Browne and the Lord Mayor of the City of London Aldremann David Wooton as hosts. Wooton was recently in Manila.
In lieu of a meeting with the queen, the President made a call on the queen’s son, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, at Buckingham Palace.
Mr. Aquino also presided over two more business meetings with Shell and Nestlé. He did an interview with BBC and had a meeting over coffee with reporters covering his trip.
Earlier on the President’s visit, agreements for more British investments in the Philippines were signed.
These included a $280-million service contract between Rolls Royce and Cebu Pacific, a $150-million deal between Gaz Asia and Aboitiz Equity agreement, and up to $600 million in investment by Glencore and the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp.