WASHINGTON, D.C. — Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez conducted an official visit to Anchorage, Alaska on August 25-28 to engage with the sizable Filipino American community there and explore the possibility of increasing economic exchanges between the Philippines and the state of Alaska.
The official visit was upon the invitation of Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan and facilitated by the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco, which exercises consular jurisdiction over Alaska, and the Asian American Pacific Islander Coalition of Alaska (AAPICA), led by its president Jesse Vizcocho. Joining the Ambassador were Philippine Consul General Henry B. Bensurto, Jr., and officials from the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. and Consulate General in San Francisco.
Alaska is home to around 30,000 Filipino Americans who represent the biggest immigrant group in the state. Majority of them are in Anchorage, which is also where 40 percent of Alaskans reside. Filipino Americans work throughout the state in the fisheries industry, the service sector, tourism, the local government, the medical industry, among other fields.
“I can tell you that I am very proud to be here in the United States as the Ambassador because everywhere I go and every person that I meet in Washington, D.C. knows a Filipino community that is very reliable and hardworking people,” Ambassador Romualdez told Filipino American leaders at a town hall event.
“Alaska is blessed with a strong Filipino community – one of the largest, per capita, in the country,” Senator Sullivan later on tweeted.
“The strength of the U.S.-Filipino relationship for decades has been one of the core pillars of security and economic prosperity for the entire Asia-Pacific region. I think that is something that we, as Americans, as Filipino Americans, should all take a lot of pride in,” Senator Sullivan said in his remarks at the town hall event.
Ambassador Romualdez and Consul General Bensurto had the opportunity to engage with members of the Filipino American community during a visit at the Anchorage plant of Copper River Seafoods, a premier producer of Alaska seafood and one of the largest employers of Filipino Americans in the state. They also met with Deputy Commissioner Nelson San Juan of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and Joy Maglaqi, who works at the Anchorage Mayor’s office. The Ambassador’s delegation likewise dined at the Filipino restaurant Bahay Kubo owned by Filipino American Maricel Medina and engaged with several faculty members and students of the University of Alaska Anchorage.
In separate meetings, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy and Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz likewise noted the vital contributions of the Filipino American community to the history and continued progress of the Last Frontier. For the part of the Philippine Government, Ambassador Romualdez and Consul General Bensurto pledged to further improve the delivery of services to kababayans in Alaska.
Ambassador Romualdez also addressed the business community in Anchorage as the featured guest at a “Make It Monday” forum co-organized by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska World Affairs Council. The forum included a wide-ranging conversation with Senator Sullivan followed by a Q&A moderated by Lise Falskow, president and CEO of the Alaska World Affairs Council.
The Ambassador further pursued economic discussions with Commissioner Julie Anderson of Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development; Jim Szczesniak, Manager of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport; Bill Popp, president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation; and Michael Kohan, Seafood Technical Director at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
While in Anchorage, Ambassador Romualdez also met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs Theodore Garrish to discuss future energy partnerships between the Philippines and U.S.
“Alaska’s strategic location and resources, not to mention the strong presence of the Filipino American community, make it a very attractive and logical partner for us, particularly on key sectors like logistics, seafood processing, tourism, and energy. Our meetings in Anchorage started important conversations about how to realize these potential synergies,” Ambassador Romualdez said.