Now Is The Perfect Time To Invest In The Philippines

Being called the “brightest spark” in Southeast Asia and “Asia’s Rising Tiger,” President Aquino told businessmen attending the 22nd World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia here that the Philippines was ripe for investments. The President touted the reforms and the new mandate his administration received from the Filipino people in the last midterm elections.

Aquino and members of his delegation arrived here yesterday morning for the forum and had separate meetings with Myanmar President Thein Sein, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF.

“Today, all the factors are in place: political stability, low inflation and low borrowing rates, opportunities for growth in almost all sectors, a government committed to integrity and empowerment, and a people known the world over for their industry, loyalty, and creativity,” Aquino said during a luncheon hosted by Ayala Corp.

The Zobel de Ayalas are longtime members of the WEF.

“In our country, you have the recipe for sustained, inclusive growth that benefits investors and the public alike. All that is left is for us to engage each other, and work together – and this is precisely why we are here today,” he said.

The President called on the businessmen to see challenges in the Philippines as opportunities as they could come and build the much-needed infrastructure as well as participate in the agriculture and tourism sectors.

With a 7.8 percent gross domestic product growth in the first quarter, investment grade from Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s, victory in the last elections, reforms in various aspects to make the country conducive to business, the President said businessmen should no longer have doubts about coming to the Philippines.

“This is the perfect time to invest in the Philippines. More and more opportunities have been created… both as a result of and as an affirmation of our commitment to reform, and we are here today to share these opportunities and invite you to work with us,” Aquino said.

He said the development of infrastructure is necessary for the growth of all other sectors.

“Right now, the Philippines is behind its ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) counterparts in this regard, including the state of our roads. Instead of seeing this as a setback, we choose to see it as an opportunity to make quality investments into infrastructure. So, we have increased our budget for infrastructure, from $4.86 billion in 2012 to $5.94 billion in 2013. This more than $1-billion increase will go toward paving all unpaved sections of our national road network, and developing airports and other transport hubs in the country,” the President said.

“At the same time, we also know that harnessing the expertise of the private sector will help us accelerate infrastructure development, which is why we are fostering greater engagement and partnership between the public and private spheres. We have already rolled out a number of projects; some are under construction, while others are still open for participation – from the construction of classrooms, and the rehabilitation, operation, and management of hydroelectric power plants, to the construction of highways,” he said.

Agriculture, tourism

Agriculture and tourism are two other priority sectors, Aquino said, not only because they “make the most of our country’s strengths, but also because they create jobs, complement existing livelihoods, and ignite rural development.”

He said the lack of infrastructure and support to farmers, among others, hampered the growth of the agriculture sector in the past and to remedy this, the government went back to basics, improving irrigation systems and constructing and rehabilitating farm-to-market roads.

“We are also moving up the value chain and discovering new uses for certain products. For example, the coconut water that was once discarded as a waste product today has become a booming industry in its own right. From 2010 to 2011 alone, coco water exports increased by more than 700 percent in value and more than 800 percent in volume, with large demand coming from countries like the United States, Australia, and the Netherlands – and the sector is still growing,” Aquino said.

He said tourism is another sector whose attraction is obvious, not only to those who are looking to invest or set up business but also to those just looking to enjoy themselves.

“The Philippines is in high demand, with 4.3 million tourists in 2012 discovering that, indeed, it’s more fun in the Philippines. With publications like Conde Nast Traveller, the New York Times, and Travel and Leisure Magazine trumpeting our beaches, nightlife, and diving – not to mention the Filipino hospitality that has made our people so famous – we are confident that we will meet, and hopefully even surpass, our 2016 target of 10 million tourist arrivals,” he said.

“So I want to take this opportunity to invite you to come and visit the Philippines, whether for a vacation, for business – perhaps to explore the hotel industry, or for the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2014, which will be held in our country. Whatever it is that you may be looking for – business opportunities in the sectors I have mentioned, or in manufacturing, shipbuilding, and information technology and business process management; a secluded and beautiful beach in Palawan, or the most lively street dancing in any of our festivals – I am certain that you will find it in our country, and find it more fun at that,” Aquino said.

Key legislation

Aquino also cited key legislation on responsible parenthood and sin taxes that were enacted, as well as the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro that was signed between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, paving the way for a final, enduring peace in the southern part of the country.

“As you may know, the Philippines has recently concluded midterm elections to elect candidates to the Senate and Congress – a process I viewed as a referendum on my first three years as President. The idea was that if the public was in agreement with the direction in which my administration was taking the country, they would elect our candidates into the legislature. Of the 12 Senate seats up for election, the voters gave us nine. In Congress, the Liberal Party and its coalition partners also have a majority,” he said.

“To me, this is an affirmation of the mandate that I won in 2010 and a vote for continuity. If the public continues to share my vision for the country, as they have done in the past years, then anyone who aspires to succeed me would do well to continue down the path we have taken – and continue the tradition of good governance and public service, as well as the reform agenda that has brought the country so much success,” the President said.

Three years ago, Aquino said he came into office faced with the task of uprooting a long-entrenched culture of corruption and impunity in government – the key to revive the economy and foster broad-based growth for the people.

Climate of confidence

Aquino said the procurement and budgeting processes had to be reformed, taking away funding from programs that did not work and pouring resources into those that would benefit the people the most – social services, health, education, infrastructure development.

“All this was done while adhering to strict standards of accountability and transparency. These same standards allowed us to make improvements to our revenue collection mechanisms, with our Bureau of Internal Revenue collections growing by 28 percent. This was achieved without raising taxes,” the President said.

Aquino said it was clear that good governance had “created a climate of confidence” in the Philippines, citing the soaring of the stock market over the past years while analysts the world over had given different names to the country’s success.

“I have heard our country called a hotspot, Asia’s Rising Tiger, or the brightest spark in Southeast Asia, just to name a few. These accolades are not unwarranted. For the first time in history, the Philippines is rated investment grade by two major credit rating agencies. These agencies have cited our robust growth as well as the low and stable inflation rate in the country – all while many other economies are experiencing slowdowns. In fact, the Philippine economy has consistently surpassed all expectations so far: full-year growth for 2012 was at 6.8 percent – higher than our growth assumption of 6 percent – while in the first quarter of 2013, our economy expanded by 7.8 percent,” Aquino said.

On the production side, the President said the first quarter growth was the result of the expansion of all major sectors: agriculture expanded 3.3 percent; services, by seven percent, and industry by 10.9 percent.

(excerpts taken from: