MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III’s trip to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum (WEF) last month was meant to “showcase” the country’s success in fighting corruption and introducing good government, and there were no expectations of fresh investment pouring in for the Philippines, Malacañang said on Saturday.
The Davos trip, which cost P49 million, was worth it, according to presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
“From the very start, this was not meant to bring dollars and cents,” Lacierda said.
Conference of ideas
“[The forum was an] opportunity for us to showcase the Philippines, and the President is our salesman in chief in showcasing the Philippines—what we’ve been doing, the reforms we have undertaken and the series of projects that we have,” he said.
The response the CEOs of multinational companies was “very positive,” Lacierda said. They told their business units in the Philippines “to invest more, and for those who have no presence here, to take a look at the Philippines,” he said.
He said there were no expectations of short-term investment.
“From the very start, we were clear: Davos is a conference of ideas. It’s where you share ideas, it’s where you share what your … country is doing,” he said.
“In the case of the Philippines, the President was there to showcase the Philippine efforts at good governance, which translates to good economics,” he said.
“And you will see also, for instance, our fourth quarter gross domestic product growth [6.6 percent]. It shows that we’ve been doing the right thing, and that we intend to continue doing the right thing … and also [we are working to reduce poverty]. These [things are for] long-term investments,” he said.
Lacierda compared the President and his administration to farmers.
“We’re planting the seeds right now, knowing that in the future there will be a harvest, and so that’s what Davos was—a marketplace of ideas, and our idea was positively received by the CEOs,” he said.
Lacierda said, however, that the Cabinet economic officials who traveled with Mr. Aquino met with top global CEOs, apparently in response to criticism that the trip was a junket.
They met with Filipino business titans such as the Zobel de Ayala siblings and Jollibee’s top honcho, Tony Tan Caktiong, he said.
Asked about the need to bring along seven Cabinet members, Lacierda said “the main proponent of the trip to Davos was the Cabinet economic cluster” led by Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo.
“The intention there was to meet the high-level CEOs, and also to [allow the President to address an anticorruption forum],” Lacierda said.
Proud to invest
Lacierda said CEOs of multinational companies that have investments in the Philippines proudly told the presidential delegation that they have investments in the Philippines.
“So there’s some sense of pride for those businesses who have invested here, and for those who have not invested in the Philippines yet, they have called on their business units and told them, ‘Look at the Philippines. Look at what they are doing. We would like to have some presence there,’” Lacierda said.