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All eyes on US elections in Philippines

By Christine Ong, Channel NewsAsia's Philippines Correspondent
Posted: 04 November 2008 2103 hrs
MANILA : The United States is the Philippines' largest source of foreign investment and is one of its largest trading partners, so Filipinos are keenly watching who will be America's next president.

Republicans warn that if Barack Obama becomes president, he could eventually pull the plug on the Philippines' call centre boom. The party said he might clamp down on outsourcing American business.

Doyle Stout, Country Chairman of Republicans Abroad Philippines said: "If the Democrats decided they were going to take back the money to Americans pockets, take it away to the people who are investing overseas, what's going to happen? You will see less investment overseas, and that will impact the Philippines."

That impact could be massive.

The call centre industry has been a key driver of economic growth in the Philippines, and it remains one of the bright spots for the country amid the global economic slowdown.

But Democrats in the Philippines dispute the claim.

"Concerns about protectionism are overblown. If you read the policy positions taken by Senator Obama, he is very much free trade oriented. He just wants to ensure that is pursued in way that has environmental and social safeguards," said David McCauley, vice chairman of Democrats Abroad Philippines.

McCauley is a close friend of the Obamas. He said Obama's deep understanding of cultural diversity will help him lead the United States, and forge better relationships in Asia.

He pointed out that Obama has vowed to make it easier for immigrants to the US to get legal status, which is proof of that understanding.

Filipino-Americans make up the third biggest Asian-American bloc in the United States.

Regardless of an Obama or a McCain victory, the United States' domestic economy will be a top priority.

But political analysts believe that the new American president will also have to contend with an emerging Asia, and renew ties with the region to help move its economy forward. And as America's oldest ally in Asia, the Philippines could play a strategic role in making this work. - CNA /ls

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