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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (left) greets President Benigno Aquino III on the steps of 10 Downing Street in central London on June 6.  (Reuters/Toby Melville)


MANILA — A proud President Benigno Aquino III declared bagging $2.5 billion worth of investments from his six-day trip to the United Kingdom and the United States.

Officials of both countries, Mr. Aquino said, have been impressed with the way the government is now being run.

He said British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince Andrew have noticed the reforms his administration has initiated, including the ongoing peace talks with rebels, as well as the impressive 6.4 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for the first quarter of 2012.

It was the same thing with U.S. President Obama who vowed to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) improve its capability in ensuring an unimpeded passage along the West Philippine Sea, which is being claimed by China.

“U.S. President Barack Obama himself stressed the importance of having the Philippines as an ally in ensuring the freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea,” Mr. Aquino said in Filipino upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Sunday.

The multi-billion-dollar investments were pledges of businessmen from both UK and U.S., he said.

Half of the total investment pledges came from Rolls-Royce, Asea Gaz Asia Ltd. and commodities trading giant Glencore, owner of the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp. (PASAR), all of which are based in the UK.

Glencore plans to expand its smelting capacity by investing $600 million while Gaz Asia eyes partnership with Aboitiz Equity, as well as investment of $150 million to develop plants that will convert organic waste materials into liquid bio methane.

For its part, Rolls Royce has signed a P280-million service contract with the Gokongwei-owned Cebu Pacific for the purchase and service of new airplane engines.

The other half of the $2.5-billion investment pledges came from U.S.-based businesses.

Among them are: GN Power Limited, which plans to put up two 300-megawatt coal plants in Bataan worth $1 billion; Underwriters Laboratories Inc. which will invest in a global technology research center in Manila.

Citigroup and USAid, meanwhile, have proposed a mobile financial inclusion program aimed at bringing the benefits of mobile banking to the rural areas.

“These numbers mean more jobs and more food on the table for Filipinos. At the same time, our friendship with the U.S. and UK bore fruit in terms of economic gains,” he said.

‘Debt-for-nature-swap’

Mr. Aquino also disclosed the U.S. waived the Philippine Government’s $23 million debt (roughly P1 billion) as part of a “debt for nature swap” in which an equivalent amount would be spent for the planting of trees.

The U.S. Government will also be donating $30 million (roughly P1.2 billion) under the “Partnership for Growth program” in support of the administration’s program to alleviate poverty in the country, he said.

“They (the U.S. Government) have so many problems but they never hesitated to help us,” Mr. Aquino said.

Mr. Aquino also thanked the U.S. Government, through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for its plan to increase the number of Peace Corps volunteers and for helping establish a National Coast Watch System that will protect the country’s maritime resources and territory.

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