PHL-as-Asean-gateway pitched to foreign businesses

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LOCATING in the Philippines is a good investment for foreign businesses as the country can serve as a gateway to the population-rich Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

In his speech at the Philippine Economic Briefing in Frankfurt, Germany, Neda Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan noted that the Philippines has a population of 110 million while the entire ASEAN has 680 million people.

Investing today, Balisacan said, would allow investors to grow with the Philippine economy, which is already in the midst of reaping the demographic dividend with a large young and English speaking population.

“So what’s in it for investors and businesses? The Philippines is a fast-growing economy of over 110 million people. Apart from having a sizable domestic consumer market, it can serve as a competitive launching pad for the ASEAN economies, home to over 680 million people, roughly 9 percent of the world population,” Balisacan said.

Balisacan said the Philippines is open for business, particularly in sectors such as energy, water, logistics, transportation, agribusiness, manufacturing, tourism, health, education, and digital connectivity.

“With all of our transformative reforms and initiatives set into motion, the Philippines is poised to regain its pre-eminence in Southeast Asia and beyond. We invite investors and the business community to join our country’s emerging narrative of economic growth and prosperity,” Balisacan said.

In order to sustain recent economic gains, Balisacan said the government is prepared to support its people by enacting policies and programs focused on education, health, and labor.

Balisacan said these programs include skills upgrading of the labor force and matching these with the requirements of industry as well as addressing the socioeconomic scarring inflicted by the pandemic on the vulnerable segments of the population.

The NEDA earlier estimated that the pandemic and the lockdowns imposed by the government are expected to cost the Philippine economy a total of P41.4 trillion in the next 40 years. (Full story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/09/25/neda-pandemic-to-cost-phl-economy-p41-4-trillion-in-total-losses-over-next-40-years/)

To address these concerns, Balisacan said the government will boost health and food security as well as nutrition programs while strengthening social protection programs.

Apart from the labor force, Balisacan said the national government also intends to modernize agriculture and agribusiness to raise the sector’s overall productivity.

The government, the Neda Secretary said, will focus on revitalizing the industry sector with technology in order to make the country’s products and exports more competitive.

Meanwhile, the government will focus on transforming the services sector into a modern and productive sector. Tourism, information technology, and the business process outsourcing industries will become strong growth drivers for the economy.

BSP assurance

For his part, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Felipe M. Medalla assured investors that the country’s banking and financial house is under the watchful eyes of the monetary authority.

Recent efforts, Medalla said, include digitalization. He admitted that the telecommunication companies contributed significantly to this.

“The telcos contributed a lot more to the increase in the [e-money] accounts [because] it’s a lot harder to be onboarded to banks. So we are meeting our [digitalization] targets [both in terms of] the number of people who will have accounts and the percentage of transactions that will be digital,” Medalla said.

The regulation of banks, Medalla added, was “very straightforward” and the BSP made sure that banks that “carry more risks” have sufficient capital.

He said Philippine banks have been healthy throughout the pandemic and that lending has recovered “very strongly.” Bank balance sheets, Medalla said, “do not show any form of weakness.”

The BSP Governor credited the good housekeeping to the lessons gleaned from the 1997 Asian Financial crisis. The banks, Medalla said, have been well governed and those that are not were closed by the central bank.

“We make sure that banks that carry more risks will have [to set aside] more capital. That policy has been very rewarding because as the crisis came, our banks remained healthy and up to the pandemic, the banks’ lending recovered very strongly,” Medalla said.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes