MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA–Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual supported President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s successful participation in the recently concluded ASEAN-Australia Special Summit Meeting held from 04 to 06 March.

Philippine Business Forum

Prior to the Special Summit Leaders’ Plenary, the DTI, through the Philippine Trade and Investment Center – Sydney, organized the Philippine Business Forum on 04 March. The forum secured 12 business agreements amounting to USD 1.53 billion (or PHP 86 billion) worth of investments.

These investments cover diverse sectors such as renewable energy, waste-to-energy technology, organic recycling technology, countryside housing initiatives, the establishment of data centers, manufacturing of health technology solutions, and digital health services.

In partnership with the Australia-Philippine Business Council (APBC), the Philippine Australia Business Council (PABC), and the Australia-New Zealand Business Chamber (ANZCHAM), the event showcased the realization of previous discussions and investment promotion efforts during the business roundtable held on the sidelines Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting (PAMM) last year.

“We witness the fruition of our October 2023 discussions and subsequent investment promotions efforts with the presentation of promising business agreements later in this forum. These investment leads signify the strengthening of the economic bond between our two nations,” said Secretary Pascual.

“We welcome the growing interest of Australian businesses to pursue investment opportunities in the Philippines, particularly in renewable energy, cybersecurity, digital health services, agriculture, data center, battery manufacturing, recycling, and education,” the Philippine trade chief added.

Launching of VICT expansion and Lowy Institute Engagement

The launch of the Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) expansion further underscored the growing presence of Philippine companies in Australia.

VICT, a subsidiary of International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) based in Manila, has established itself as a major player in Melbourne’s port operations since it started its operations in 2017. This expansion firmly positions VICT as the sole fully automated container terminal in the southern hemisphere.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Ralph Recto, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Philippine Ambassador of the Philippines to Australia Ma. Hellen De La Vega, VICT Chairman Christian Gonzales, and ICTSI CEO, Mr. Ricky Razon led the inauguration ceremony held on 04 March.

Meanwhile, Secretary Pascual and Australian Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farell solidified their commitment to strengthen the economic relationship between the Philippines and Australia during their engagement at the Lowy Institute. Both parties acknowledged the significance of elevated bilateral strategic partnership and regional mechanisms, such as the Second Protocol to Amend the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

One-on-One Meeting with Macquarie

In line with the government’s goal of establishing the Philippines as a regional hub for smart and sustainable manufacturing and services, President Marcos Jr., Secretary Pascual, and other Cabinet Secretaries met with representatives from Macquarie Group on 05 March.

Macquarie Group, Australia’s leading financial services company, reaffirmed its intent to expand its current renewable energy and digitalization investments in the Philippines. Additionally, the discussions noted the Board of Investments’ (BOI) approval of a green lane certificate for 1.3 gigawatt floating solar project in Laguna Lake funded by Macquarie.

Special Summit Leaders’ Plenary

Secretary Pascual and other ASEAN and Australian Economic Ministers back their national leaders during the Special Summit Leaders’ Plenary held on 06 March.

During the plenary, President Marcos Jr. emphasized the importance of utilizing the Second Protocol to Amend the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), signed by the Philippines on 14 February, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Moreover, the President recognized AANZFTA and RCEP as essential policy tools to leverage the growing regional trade and investment between ASEAN, Australia, and New Zealand.

“The Second Protocol of AANZFTA represents another milestone in our work to further strengthen regional trade and investment flows among ASEAN, Australia, and New Zealand. We want to ensure the agreement continues to benefit businesses and reinforce our strategic links in the region,” said Secretary Pascual.

Australia remains the Philippines’ 14th largest trading partner. Foreign direct investment (FDI) from Australia reach USD 7.01 million in 2022. Key priority sectors for Australian investment include agribusiness (agriculture and food security), industrial, manufacturing, and transport (semi-conductor, automotive, and aerospace), technology, media, and telecommunications (business process outsourcing and data centers). ♦

Date of release: 09 March 2024