Alaska is likely not the first place that would come to mind when wondering where in the United States Filipinos emigrate to. Contrary to expectations, Filipinos are now Alaska’s largest Asian group, making up 50% of the total Asian American and Pacific Islander population. Ties with the Philippines have been further cemented in the last couple of years, beginning with the swearing in of the first honorary consul general of the Philippines to Alaska in June 2013.
On a trip to Alaska on November 1st and 2nd, Filipino Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia Jr. attended the Filipino Maharlika Banquet in Anchorage to further promote trade ties between the two partners. Right after this visit, Juneau, Alaska, signed a Sister City agreement with the city Kalibo of the Philippines, its second agreement with the Philippines as a whole. After several Juneau officials visited Kalibo, itself a capital city as well as a port, they determined that it would be much better suited as a sister city for Juneau. Of the 3,000 Filipinos that call Juneau home, 800 of them hail from the province of Aklan, of which Kalibo is the capital. It is the hope of both Alaska and the Philippines that with this partnership trade and student exchanges will strengthen even more. There is even a push for a direct flight to Manila using Alaska Airlines to increase fish exports.
Community-level ties are an important part of Alaska’s ties to Asia, and likely contribute to where it sends its exports. In 2012, 4% of Alaska’s total exports went to ASEAN countries including the Philippines, valued at roughly $224 million. The three top export categories were petroleum and coal, marine products, and transportation equipment. These products were also Alaska’s main exports to Asia overall, which represented the market for 59% of Alaska’s total exports. From 2007 to 2012 Alaska’s exports to Asia have grown by 31%. With strong maritime and energy exports, places like the Philippine archipelago make natural trade partners.
Sarah Batiuk is a Program Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.