MAKATI CITY – A Guam-Philippine Business Council has been formed to push forward and strengthen trade and investments ties between businessmen from both countries.
This developed after the successful mounting of the Guam Trade Mission in Manila held from June 30 to July 2 which opened with a conference at the Renaissance Hotel in Makati City.
In an interview with the Journal Peter R. Sgro Jr. president of International Group Inc. one of the primary movers of the 20-man trade mission to Manila said: "The conference exceeded our expectations. The attendance of the executive level representatives of the [Philippine] companies is a clear indication of major interest in investing on Guam."
About 172 representatives of various Philippine companies attended the conference most of them seeing lots of business opportunities on the island.
Sgro said steps toward establishing a Guam-Philippine Business Council have been taken and a general invite to the conference participants to be members of the council have been extended.
"The Guam-Philippine Business Council will continue fostering our business relationships with Filipinos long after this conference is over " he said. Members of the council are Franklin P. Arriola chief executive officer and director Pacific Rim Brokers Inc.; Peter R. Sgro Jr. president and board chairman International Group Inc.; Oscar Miyashita managing partner People/Far East Area of Ernst & Young and a member of the Far East Area Executive Board; David Silva general manager Century Insurance Guam; David J. John president ASC Trust Corp.; Nancy Ang Tan assistant manager FirstNet Insurance Co.; Atty. Cesar C. Cabot partner Cabot & Mantanona LLP; Maureen N. Maratita publisher Glimpses Publications; Alfredo O. Antolin president Affinity Resource Inc.; and Rene H. Ramos proprietor of MedPhar Pharmaceuticals Inc. and LabTech.
At the conference Gov. Felix P. Camacho outlined the massive opportunities for Filipino investors especially with the transfer of some 8 000 U.S. military personnel and their 9 000 dependents on Guam beginning 2010.
"The bottom line is we would need 12 000-15 000 additional workers on Guam just to support the military buildup " he said which would take place over five years. More manpower is needed for the private sector initiatives and independent estimates see a total requirement of some 25 000 workers.
Camacho stressed that Guam starting in November will be exempted from the 66 000 quota for "H2B" Visas for the U.S. and will be allowed to bring in as many "temporary workers" as needed to fulfill manpower requirements of Guam and American companies sustaining the military buildup. "But being temporary workers they will be required to return home to the Philippines after their contracts are up " he stressed. The exemption from the immigration quota for seasonal workers will last until Dec. 31 2014.
However not only construction workers are covered by the exemption. Under Title VII of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 immigration quotas for all "H" visas are suspended for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. This includes 65 000 "H1-B" visas for professional or specialty workers and an additional 20 000 visas for those workers with a U.S. master’s degree.
Aside from skilled construction workers other jobs open to Filipinos include nurses occupational therapists physicians engineers architects and the like.
In a media briefing prior to the conference Ricardo DueÃ±as chief financial officer of ST Corp. and chairman of the Guam Economic Development Authority the counterpart of the Philippines’ Board of Investments revealed that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration will be setting up a liaison office on the island to help facilitate the hiring of Filipino workers for projects.
The conference was well-received by the Filipino participants among them Jesus P. Francisco former president of Meralco the largest power utility in the Philippines. Now chairing the power firm’s subsidiary the Meralco Industrial Engineering Services Corp. Francisco said "I’m interested to look at opportunities in Guam in the areas of electro-mechanical building transmission lines power plants ”¦ for MIESCOR. So I’m glad I attended this conference."
Some of MIESCOR’s projects include detailed engineering project management and construction of yard piping and fire-fighting system for the 215-megawatt Bauang Diesel Power Plant in La Union north of Manila; engineering services and due diligence on the 600-mw Masinloc coal-fired power plant in Zambales south of Manila; engineering construction testing operation and maintenance of the 850-mw Sucat power plants and 650-mw Malaya power plants of Meralco in Muntinlupa City Metro Manila and Rizal; above-ground piping works electrical and instrumentation works including perimeter lighting of the 108-mw Subic Bay Free Port Power Plant in Zambales for Fluor Daniel Engineers and Construction Inc. and Enron Power Operating Co.; electrical and mechanical works for 500-mw San Lorenzo power plant of First Gas Corp.; and electro-mechanical works site development and installation of a heat recovery and steam generator at the 1000-mw Sta. Rita power plant of First Gas; among others.
Another conference participant Jorge M. Yulo president and chief executive officer of I Document Corp. told the Journal that he is "investigating a number of opportunities in Guam in IT (information technology) " specifically in data conversion. His firm recently assisted the Land Registration Systems Inc. which implemented the Land Titling Computerization Project of the Land Registration Authority a Philippine government agency.
As director of Stradcom Corp. Yulo added that the company is currently involved in the project development of a proposed 200-bed private hospital on Guam. "We are targeting to make sure the hospital commences by 2012.
He said the "proximity of Guam to the Philippines and its [citizens’] similarities with us (Filipinos)" makes the island an ideal investment area for Philippine companies.
In an earlier press conference Camacho had noted the need for the construction of a 200-mw power plant to boost the power supply requirements of the island which will see a 25% surge in its population with the transfer of the military personnel and their dependents.
The Guam governor is also said to be supporting the construction of a private hospital to complement the small and understaffed Guam Memorial Hospital.
However some concerns were also raised by with regard to the current conditions on Guam of its seaport. During the question-and-answer forum Ludy Ebarvia Andres line manager for the Japanese-owned Kyowa Line said "priority" is usually given to American flag carrier ships. Kyowa she said has been supporting trade between the Philippines and Guam for the longest time by ferrying cargo between both countries. "But even if we arrive first in the seaport whenever a U.S. flag carrying ship arrives we are asked to move out; this results in additional berthing costs for us " she told the panel of Guam businessmen and government officials at the conference.
DueÃ±as assured Andres that her concerns would be taken up by the Guam Port Authority and that the expansion of the seaport will help ensure that all ships regardless of nationality will be accommodated. PAG is currently in the midst of a $195 million upgrade.
In a separate interview David J. John president of the Guam-based ASC Trust Corp. sees increasing two-way business traffic between the Philippines and Guam because of the military buildup. "A lot of businesses will come here [to Manila] while those here will go to Guam." A leader in retirement plan consulting services in the region ASC Trust he added has already widened its backroom operations for its many clients on Guam. "We’re outsourcing our 401K [services] here in Manila. We see more companies on Guam needing to set up backroom operations."
Other speakers at the conference included DueÃ±as who gave a general overview of the island and presented the investments and tax regulations of the government; David B. Tydingco senior vice president of Younex International and chairman of the Guam Visitors Bureau who discussed the military buildup; Christopher M. Felix president and principal broker of Century 21 Realty Management Co. Felix a longtime realtor and previous president of the Guam Association of Realtors spoke on real estate issues; David Silva resident manager for Century Insurance Co. (Guam) Ltd. presented the market for captive insurance and financial services; and Franklin P. Arriola chief executive officer of Pacific Rim Brokers Inc. who discussed opportunities in the agriculture and aquaculture industries as well as food products retail.
One of the featured speakers included Jose Ricardo "Ricky" Delgado Jr. president and chief executive officer of Manila-based Citadel Holdings who oversees the company’s telecommunications subsidiary Pacific Telecom Inc. which operates in Guam and the CNMI as IT&E Overseas Inc. He spoke on his experiences and success at doing business in Guam. MBJ