Consul General’s Corner
Emil T. Fernandez
Philippines-Hawai‘i Economic Ties
Hawai‘i and the Philippines have a long-standing history of trade and investment relations. The two regions have shared a unique cultural connection for over a century, which has fueled the economic partnership between them.
Trade between Hawai‘i and the Philippines dates to the early 1900s when Hawai‘i was still a U.S. territory. Filipino immigrants started to migrate to Hawai‘i in large numbers, bringing with them their culture and their trading practices. Today, Hawai‘i has a large Filipino community that has played a significant role in strengthening the economic ties between the two regions.
The Philippines is an important trading partner for Hawai‘i. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total trade between the two regions in 2019 was valued at $28.1 million. The majority of Hawai‘i’s exports to the Philippines include agricultural products such as fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, while the Philippines exports electronic products, textiles and furniture to Hawai‘i.
Investment relations between Hawai‘i and the Philippines have also been growing in recent years. According to the Philippines Trade and Investment Center in Los Angeles, there are currently over two dozen Philippine-owned companies operating in Hawai‘i, primarily in the fields of real estate, tourism, and food and beverage. They include popular establishments such as Jollibee and Max’s.
In addition, Hawai‘i-based companies have also been investing in the Philippines, particularly in the areas of tourism, call centers, retail and renewable energy. Examples include the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, a Hawai‘i-based hospitality company with several properties in the Philippines, including the Outrigger Resort in Boracay, as well as Connext and Vertaccount, BPOs that have established centers in Angeles, Pampanga and Makati, Metro Manila, respectively.
The Philippine government has also been actively promoting investment opportunities in the country to Hawai‘i-based companies. In 2019, the Philippines Embassy in Washington, D.C. hosted an investment forum in Hawai‘i to showcase the country’s potential for foreign investors. Earlier this year, the Philippine Consulate General organized a briefing on the Philippine economy focusing on its IT sector with corporate executives from PLDT taking part, as well as the Trabaho, Negosyo at Kabuhayan session for the Ilocos region. The Consul General also co-led the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i Trade Mission to the Philippines last October to explore business opportunities.
The cultural ties between Hawai‘i and the Philippines are a driving force in the economic partnership between the two regions. The annual Filipino fiesta celebration in the different islands of Hawai‘i are manifestations of how the two regions recognize their shared culture and heritage, while also promoting trade and investment opportunities. For its part, Binhi at Ani is gearing up to stage its much anticipated Barrio Fiesta 2023 this May 26 and 27. The Consulate has committed to participate with an information booth for the various services it offers.
Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the trade and investment relations between Hawai‘i and the Philippines continue to thrive. The Philippines has great potential to be among Hawai‘i’s top trading partners in Asia, and the two regions remain committed to strengthening their economic partnership.
Hawai‘i and the Philippines share a unique cultural connection that has fueled their trade and investment relations for over a century. With the support of their respective governments and the efforts of their business communities, including the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce, the economic partnership between the two regions is expected to continue to grow and prosper in the coming years.
Emil T. Fernandez is the current Consul General of the Philippines stationed in Honolulu. He graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management Economics. Prior to his appointment to Hawai‘i, Fernandez served as Deputy Consul General in Frankfurt, Germany. His other foreign assignments included Washington, D.C. (2010–2016), Santiago, Chile (2005–2008) and Caracas, Venezuela (2002–2005). In Manila, Fernandez held several important positions, including Executive Director of the Office of Asian & Pacific Affairs (2016–2018), Director for Southern Europe of the Office of European Affairs (2009–2010), Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations (2008–2009) and Acting Director of the Office of ASEAN Affairs (1999–2001).