MAKATI CITY Philippines "" Gov. Felix P. Camacho’s speach was well received by American businessmen who attended the 2006 annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel from March 15 through March 17.

This developed as Camacho also made a pitch for the Guam Chamber of Commerce to host APCAC’s annual meeting in 2008.

In his speech on March 16 Camacho invited the more than 200 businessmen present at the Manila meeting to invest in Guam whose market is expected to expand substantially with the relocation of some 8 000 Marines and their families beginning 2007 as well as the anticipated increase in tourists.

In a press conference to close the annual meeting George M. Drysdale chairman and chief executive officer of Marsman-Drysdale Group based in the Philippines and incumbent APCAC chairman said "We were impressed by Gov. Camacho’s presentation. Guam is obviously doing a lot to attract foreign investments. The more you can create an investment-friendly environment the more investments will come and raise economic development."

Landis Hicks executive vice president of Pacific Architects & Engineers based in Singapore and incoming APCAC chairman said Camacho’s speech "created awareness of Guam’s development"¦and it being a gateway to the United States." He noted that Guam with 26 participants had the largest delegation among APCAC members. The delegation included 17 members of the Guam Chamber while the rest were officials from the government of Guam. These included APCAC’s board of governors however failed to vote on the Guam Chamber’s petition to host the group’s 2008 meeting.

According to Drysdale "while we appreciate [Guam’s] presentation for it to host the 2008 meeting it was "premature." He said the decision on the 2008 venue for the APCAC’s presentation would be made at next year’s meeting. APCAC decides on the venue of its annual meetings only a year in advance.

Guam he said originally proposed to host the 2007 meeting "but deferred to Ho Chi Minh City." But he added "no one else has submitted [a proposal to host the] 2008 [meeting]."

Despite this Michael T. Benito told the Journal he was optimistic that the island will be able to host the 2008 meeting.

"I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get it " he said. "I’ve talked to some [APCAC board] members they said we have a good chance [of hosting it]."

Benito said "It is a standing policy that they [APCAC board] doesn’t make any decision [regarding the venue of its meetings] two years in advance. They will meet in June and maybe make a decision then." Guam hosted APCAC’s annual meetings in 1981 1988 and 2000.

During his speech Camacho said Guam was poised for greater growth and job opportunities even as the local workforce has grown by 10% business licenses are up and leading industries are growing stronger paving the way for other industries to expand.

"We have reconstructed our economic base by focusing on tourism and military expansion " he said noting that last year some 1.2 million tourists visited Guam and that some 8 000 Marines and their families were relocating to the island beginning 2007.

"Every industry from retail to housing and health care to construction is rushing to prepare for the economic boom these movements "" the largest move by the U.S. Marine Corps anywhere since the end of World War II.

He said that his administration is actively campaigning for the U.S. Department of Defense to bring more military assets to the island to further boost the island’s economy and increase security in the region.

"As we venture into a period of unprecedented prosperity we invite you all with open arms to share in our progress and growth. The time is now. Guam is good " he told the APCAC participants.

In a press conference a day before his speech Camacho also encouraged Filipino businessmen to invest in Guam. He underscored the advantages of investing in the island "a stable an secure locale as we are a territory of the United States of America. We have a very stable government and the laws of the United States are applicable to Guam."

Other than housing developments needed for the arriving Marines other potential businesses for Filipino investments are in low cost air carriers retail of Filipino products which is of huge demand on Guam. The island is also promoting its new international arbitration center and studying the feasibility of setting up a regional distribution center for air and sea transportation Camacho said.

Major Filipino investors on Guam include Lucio Tan chairman and chief executive officer of Philippine Airlines with companies that own Micronesia Mall and telecom interests; and Henry Sy Sr. owner of Agana Shopping Center who will be building a Shoemart department store in the Agana Shopping Center. At present the Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc. is still negotiating to complete the takeover of the operations of Guam’s port.

Other speakers during the three-day APCAC conference included Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; Trade and Industry Secretary Peter B. Favila; Washington Sycip founder of the Philippine accounting firm the SGV Group; Ambassador Karan K. Bhatia deputy U.S. trade representative; James Shinn national intelligence officer for East Asia Office of the Director of National Intelligence; Jonathan Anderson managing director UBS Investment Research of UBS Securities Asia Ltd.; and officials of the Asian Development Bank.

Camacho and the Guam Chamber officers along with Charles V. Cepeda president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce also attended a cocktail buffet on March 16 hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Manila for the APCAC participants. Leading embassy officials was Paul Jones U.S. Chargé d’Affaires.

APCAC is comprised of 26 member American Chambers representing 10 000 business entities located in 20 countries in the Asia Pacific with over $300 billion in investments. Its mission is to improve the competitiveness of U.S. business in the region. The annual meetings prepare the group’s yearly meetings with U.S. government decision-makers during a "Washington Doorknock" in June led by the APCAC chairman.

This year’s meeting in Manila carried the theme "Is the World Really Flat? " inspired by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s bestseller "The World is Flat." According to Friedman the widening use of various technologies and opening of markets in China India and Eastern Europe has led to a new level of globalization i.e. a flat world. MBJ