Successful Saudi Arabia Visit
The string of signed investment deals and commitments in the past two weeks is auspicious for the Filipino people and the entire country. They give us something to hope for in the future—especially for our kababayans in search of jobs.
I am referring to the successful visit of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to Saudi Arabia ahead of the Asean–Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in that nation. Mr. Marcos’ visit to Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most meaningful among the official trips he has undertaken so far. Saudi Arabia is home to about one million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the largest community of Filipino professionals in industries, such as engineering, architecture and health care.
We know how our workers in Saudi Arabia powered the Philippine economy in the past. Their remittances funded the schooling of their children here, fueled consumer spending, led to a property boom through the construction of affordable houses and condominiums, and stabilized the peso against major currencies.
Many Filipino workers have an affinity with Saudi Arabia because it is one big employer that secured their future. It was appropriate, thus, for Mr. Marcos to pay the Kingdom a visit and show his gratitude for the many assistance that Saudi Arabia extended to our overseas workers.
The visit to Saudi Arabia, in my opinion, is a big success. It will pave the way for more job opportunities in the future, and Arab investments in the Philippines. Malacañang just announced that the Philippines has secured $4.26 billion worth of investments from four agreements in Saudi Arabia.
Topping the labor and employment agreement is the $3.76-billion deal between Al-Jeer Human Resources Co. (ARCO) and the Association of Philippine Licensed Agencies for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to hire Filipino workers in the kingdom.
Al Rushaid Petroleum Investment Co. and Samsung Engineering NEC Co. Ltd. also reached a $120-million agreement with EEI Corp. to put up a 500-person training facility in Tanza, Cavite.
I consider the second deal equally significant. It aims to upgrade Filipino labor skills in steel fabrication, electrical, welding, equipment management, masonry, carpentry, warehousing and other construction-related crafts. This initiative will train at least 2,000 Filipinos starting in 2024 and more than 15,000 in the next five years.
Maharah Human Resources Co. of Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, signed separate agreements with Filipino companies Staffhouse International Resources Corp. and E-GMP International Corp., each valued at an estimated $191 million. As in the first agreement, the third deal aims to bring thousands of Filipino workers to the Kingdom to meet its growing demand for labor.
President Marcos wasted no time as well in pitching for the Philippines as an investment hub. He invited Saudi business leaders to visit the Philippines and see for themselves the investment opportunities here. He tested the waters by urging the Arab nation to invest in the Philippines’ first sovereign investment fund. Saudi business leaders responded in the positive by expressing their interest in the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF).
Saudi Arabia is no stranger to state-managed funds. The Public Investment Fund, its sovereign wealth fund, is among the largest in the world with total assets of about $776 billion. Over 60 percent of the fund’s activities are within Saudi Arabia that primarily go to private conglomerates owned by prominent Saudi business families with close ties to the Saudi ruling family.
Saudi investments in MIF and the Kingdom’s vast experience in managing such funds are welcomed to make our own version of sovereign fund succeed. The MIF is seeking to attract capital from both domestic and global equity investors, including large funds in the Middle East, that want to diversify their portfolio in fast-growing emerging markets like the Philippines.
Saudi Arabia has plenty of investible funds. Part of that could be invested in the MIF to speed up the implementation of the Philippines’ 197 high-impact infrastructure flagship projects worth about $153 billion. Saudi Ministry of Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih confirmed that Saudi investors were particularly interested in the MIF.
We welcome foreign investments, especially if they result in the transfer of technology, boost the capital of local businessmen and contribute to the overall economic growth. They will certainly generate jobs and help secure a better future for us.