Well at last the USA Presidential election has been run and won, by the very unlikely and highly unorthodox candidate Donald Trump. But what will President Trump mean for the Philippines?
Contrary to much opinion that President Trump will be bad for the whole world, I believe that he will bring his business, deal making and relationship building skills to the world – if he really wants to make America great again, he will most definitely need to bring his “A” game.
But before talking about the new President of the USA, lets reflect on the journey of President Duterte. He too was an unconventional candidate who broke many stereotypes on his way to Malacañang and since he became President in June. He has not always met with everyone’s approval and famously issued his personal thoughts about President Obama, the USA and the Europeans too.
He launched a war on drugs, is being hard on crime, criminality and corruption and in many ways is breaking the old order wide open. He appears not to be in the pocket of anyone and feels empowered to do it his way and has done his own deals with China and spent his travel time in Asia, focussing on getting to know his neighbours and doing a better deal for the Philippines and Filipinos.
His Secretaries have been maintaining relationships and building accord with other nations at many levels, all the while trying to reinforce the position of the Philippines and reducing risk. But not all of his Secretaries have been popular. Miss Regina Lopez, Secretary of the DENR has been shaking up the mining industry – some say with the backing of the President. It has been met with all sorts of resistance and rightly so, as the methods employed by the Secretary have ignored due process and procedural fairness to every mining company audited so far. This has definitely upset the sentiment around foreign direct investment and made it very hard for companies to raise money, seek investment and do more to employ people, build communities and improve lives. This is not confined to the mining industry but all industries where fresh foreign capital is needed for development and growth. Immediate action to repair this situation can be taken now that Miss Regina Lopez was unsuccessful at the Commission of Appointments.
The BPO sector, employing more than 1.2 million people is also feeling the pain of Presidential outbursts. The mainly foreign-owned BPO firms have been anxious since the President announced his separation from the USA. Whilst no firms have yet stated that they will close down their business in the Philippines and relocate, they are all cautious about investing more until relations, policy and direction are more certain and supportive of that new investment. The Secretaries in DTI, Finance and Foreign Affairs will need to work overtime to rebuild positive sentiment.
And so back to President Trump. He represents in the USA and the world a similar force to President Duterte in the Philippines. Unconventional, brash, a deal-maker who wants to grow his own nation and make his people feel stronger, bolder and more empowered to achieve. He has offended many on the way to the White House. But he has also given middle America the chance to feel needed, recognised, and heard. He May also have given the people hope that he will change their lot for the better – make them feel stronger and more empowered while making “America great again”.
As I see it, there is common ground already appearing. I have always been confident that whilst President Duterte has been blunt with President Obama, he would make friends with the next President. Now that we know that it will be President Trump from January, I am confident that this friendship and new relationship will be easier to make and easier to keep – with the Philippines feeling better about the relationship, which should be much more on their terms.
We shall see.
Neil Grimes | APBC Vice-President for Victoria
11 November 2016
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the APBC.