The predominant theme of my several posts is about the Philippines or the Filipino culture. It was never my intention. But I can’t help not writing about my country, the Philippines, when my fellowship revolves around my being a Philippine expert. As mentioned in an earlier post, I’m a team member of the East Asia and the Pacific practice of a global consulting firm, Albright Stonebridge Group (ASG). The team supports a diverse portfolio of clients, mostly global companies and international non-profits that have interests in the East Asia and the Pacific region. The fellowship has made me more connected to my country than ever before, particularly in the political and economic spaces. 

As a Philippine advisor, I need to be updated about the current developments in my country that would impact the businesses of our clients. I have never been most updated about the goings-on in my country thus far. I pay close attention to critical events that would affect doing business in the Philippines. I’m on the lookout for changes in the business environment which covers the whole range of external forces including economic, social, legal, technological, and political factors that would affect the companies and their business operations. Specifically, how these external factors such as changes in government tax and trade policies, emerging technology trends, inflation, ecological and environmental issues, among others can impact companies bottom line. As both practitioner and student of business albeit informally, the whole experience is a deep dive into the complexities of geopolitics, international trade, and national regulations. My host organization is well-positioned to tackle these issues and provide client services, priding itself as a global strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm headed by former top U.S. diplomats and high-ranking government officials. My ASG colleagues are highly skilled professionals with expertise and on-the-ground presence in the different regions of the world who are a wealth of resource for me. They have extensive relationships across government, industry, and civil society. I am learning new things every day and re-imagining possibilities. The experience is both challenging and rewarding as it enhances my skills and agility.

So, why take an interest in the Philippines? The Philippines is an island country in the Southeast Asia located in the western Pacific Ocean. It takes its name from the Spanish King Philip II, the monarch during the Spanish colonization of the islands in the 16th century. For over three centuries, the Philippines was under the Spanish rule. In the late 19th century, the United States annexed the country after Spain’s defeat during the Spanish-American War and governed for nearly 50 years. The colonization ushered in the development of Philippine’s unique culture that is the blend of the East and West. Filipinos are sometimes called Latinos of Asia. Other times, Filipinos are merely unsure about their identity.

Fast forward to the current development in the Philippines, it is still an emerging Southeast Asian economy, after a series of mishaps in governance in the past decades. The Philippine economy has been growing rapidly since late 2000s, with GDP growth over six percent over the last several years. While it is making headway in the economic aspect, people living in poverty remains high at 21 percent. President Rodrigo Duterte has made international headlines for changing the country’s political landscape and his controversial policies since his assumption of office in 2016. His promise to fight crime and illegal drugs propelled him to presidency. Duterte’s key economic policies centered on improving Philippines infrastructure to spur growth, create jobs, improve connectivity, and reduce the cost of doing business in the country. While the government and investors are optimistic for the Philippines to achieve its growth potentials, it will be an uphill battle with many unpopular reforms needed. There is so much at stake for me as an active spectator and analyst.