Since the Philippines and the United States of America first formalized diplomatic ties 75 years ago, the relationship between the two countries has been further strengthened by the arrival of numerous US-based corporations that chose the Philippines as the base of their Asia-Pacific operations.
In addition, many Philippine companies have also found success in expanding their global footprint enhanced by or anchored on significant American presence.
At least three companies spotlighted here have benefitted from the strong economic ties between the US and the Philippines. Two of these companies are US-based Fluor Daniel and the Planate Management Group. The third, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company or PLDT, Inc. has also gained a strong foothold in the US and the European markets with its PLDT US operations.
Establishing their foothold
Fluor Daniel, Inc., an American multinational engineering and construction firm headquartered in Irving, Texas, has been operating in the Philippines since the 1980s. Tony Rutland, the company’s general manager for its Philippine operations, considers the country “a great place to establish an engineering office, and to conduct business.”
“Fluor first worked in the Philippines when we built the Shell Batangas refinery over 30 years ago. Our experience with our Filipino employees on that job was a driver of our decision to establish a permanent engineering office in the Philippines. The strong engineering talent available in the Philippines has allowed us to grow our presence substantially and today our Philippine office works on projects for Fluor’s global clients—whether in Canada or Kuwait,” Rutland further shared.
He attributes Fluor’s success in the Philippines to its Filipino employees who the company considers “world class in their talent, skills and dedication.”
“But the Philippines has an additional benefit that makes it unique – the people. It has been said that the Filipinos are the happiest people on earth and we see that in working with them every day. They bring a joy to the office, but they also bring a technical capability that allows us to work with clients around the globe,” he pointed out.
Similarly, the Planate Management Group, the Virginia-based management consulting firm, has also had a similar experience with its Philippine operations but company president Chris Decker also cites challenges in terms of business compliance.
“Business formation and compliance in Singapore is much easier than in the Philippines, but the costs are generally higher while taxes are lower. Business formation and compliance in our Kenya office compare equally with the challenges of business in the Philippines. Labor law compliance is challenging at times. The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and Free Trade Zones have been helpful, but the loss of these will be problematic,” Decker noted.
The American executive, however, is quick to commend the company’s Filipino employees for their “eagerness, attitude, and work ethics.”
“I have been working with Filipinos since this company started. These attributes are the foundations this company stands on,” Decker said.
On the other side of the coin, Philippine companies that expand their presence on American soil are flourishing well, as in the case of PLDT US, which has been serving American and Filipino-American businesses since the start of the new millennium.
“PLDT (US) LTD commenced its operations in June 2001 offering wholesale voice traffic to various carriers/telco operators, and voice/data services to Philippine call centers/BPOs (Business Process Outsourcing). Two years after, it offered retail products focused primarily for Filipinos calling the Philippines. This retail product then evolved from physical phone cards to MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) to mobile app. Today PLDT US offers wholesale voice traffic, data services, and various retail products,” revealed PLDT US general manager Chito Ocampo.
“PLDT, Inc. is the only Philippine company listed in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) through its American Depository Shares (ADR). PLDT US, through its international arm, PLDT Global, was established to serve the needs of our clients globally, directly and indirectly. In the US, our objective is how we can stay relevant to our US clients, both American and Filipino-American. We focus our attention on technology trends and look at how we as a company can take and use technology as a major innovator in this industry. PLDT US stays relevant to existing and new clients by leading them to areas where they are able to continue to enable business and create more revenue,” added Rich Ortega, managing director and senior advisor of PLDT US.
Thriving amidst the pandemic
Despite the tremendous growth these companies enjoyed after setting up shop outside of their respective home bases, their operations have nonetheless encountered new challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that began over a year ago.
Rutland acknowledged that the global economic slowdown has affected Fluor. Thankfully, the particular industry their company belongs to is not among the hardest hit.
“Engineering and construction are considered an essential industry in many countries and Fluor Philippines has continued to work on important projects worldwide. We [also] have other execution centers in China and India which are partners of our office here in the Philippines. We work on many jobs together and share resources when projects require. All of our offices in Asia Pacific are key parts of our strategy and perform at the highest level,” he revealed.
For his part, Decker admits that “things are flattening out in the government space” since Covid-19 broke out a year ago but was also surprised that the pandemic “increased sales for Planate as a result of contingency engineering support.”
Even with the compliance and other challenges, Decker remains optimistic about Planate’s Philippine outlook.
“Our firm continues to move more back-office operations to the Philippines for our worldwide footprint. New business formations in the USA will scale our established footprint in the Philippines,” he underscored.
As for PLDT US, Ortega said being a Global Service Provider (GSP) which serves the Americas and Europe, the company has had its share of pandemic-related challenges.
“However, with the availability to enable remote work and with one-on-one collaborations slowly returning with the advent of mass inoculation in 2021, there is that light at the end of the tunnel. What separates a company from other companies is how well they serve their clients.” PLDT US takes that to task all the time. We make sure we have a world-class operation that supports our ability to handle clients and give them proper account management,” Ortega concluded.