By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
“Philippines first. Philippines first.”
Thus declared Teresita “Tessie” Sy-Coson, vice chairperson of SM Investments Corporation (SMIC), one of the Philippines’ largest publicly traded holding companies, in a talk with reporters at the ASEAN Business Advisory Council welcome dinner at the Conrad Hotel in the Mall of Asia complex when asked to comment on the impact of US President Trump’s policy of “America first” on the conglomerate’s investment plans.
According to Sy-Coson, the company’s investment focus in the medium-term or in the next five years is the motherland, the Philippines.
“We’re not going elsewhere yet, not this year. It is Philippines first in the medium term,” Sy-Coson said adding that rather than expanding aggressively overseas their focus is Philippines first because there are lots of opportunities in the country.
She, however, refused to say which industries they may venture into or which existing business portfolio the conglomerate may further expand, but said it won’t be in the manufacturing sector.
“All of us are supposed to look at the Philippines first, Philippines first,” she stressed citing the need to create more jobs even as her company’s businesses have been creating jobs and lots of peripheral businesses that also create jobs.
“There are other bigger employers, but we also try to employ as many people as we can, that is the direction,” she added.
Sy-Coson further explained that this policy of “Philippine first” is not new to the company stressing that while they have investments overseas like China, majority of their investments are still in the Philippines.
However, it is only now that she openly declared her “Philippines first” policy. If the US President can say “America first”, Sy-Coson said, “We can also say that.” US President Donald Trump in his inaugural address declared his government’s policy of “America first.”
Sy-Coson also downplayed the impact of Trump’s protectionist policy on the conglomerate’s various businesses stressing the impact will be felt more by manufacturers, but not on businesses that are consumer driven.
The impact of the US government policy is largely on cross border trading, but on consumer driven businesses, which largely cater to the domestic sector, she said.
The SM conglomerate has been a diversified one but it has not ventured into the manufacturing and processing operations. It has interests in retail, banking, energy and real estate.
“Manufacturing is something that he (Trump) will protect,” Sy-Coson said.
Whatever is the impact on the new US government’s policy, Sy said it will be milder on their businesses. A consumer driven business is likely to experience a milder impact, she stressed.