THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is encouraging the international business community to diversify and expand business in the Philippines as the country continues to build on the momentum created by the government’s policy of good governance and ease of doing business.
“I believe and we expect that trade and investment between the Philippines and Asean and between the Philippines and the US will continue to grow as we open more areas of trade cooperation between the US and the Philippines,” Undersecretary Ponciano C. Manalo, Jr. said during the recent 2014 Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC) Spring Summit in Makati City.
“Our investment landscape has improved significantly. The fundamentals for growth are substantial. The Philippines is operating on a favorable economic backdrop,” Manalo said, citing the Philippines’ robust economic expansion of 7.2 percent in 2013 following an impressive 6.8-percent growth the year before.
Inflation averaged at 3 percent in 2013, with total merchandise exports up by 3.6 percent, foreign direct investments up by 36.6 percent, and inbound visiting companies and organizations up by 31.2 percent. Recently, the Philippines was identified by Euromonitor International as one of the five fastest-growing key emerging economies in 2014.
Top American executives in the Asia Pacific recently convened in the Philippines to discuss investment matters and explore opportunities amid the country’s strong economic growth.
The APCAC was founded in 1968 and now consists of 26 American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) members in 19 economies in the Asia Pacific region. The theme of this year’s conference is “Asia’s Resurgence and America’s Role.”
The country has also leapfrogged in the competitiveness arena. For the first time ever, the country was granted investment-grade status by the big three international credit rating agencies, i.e., Fitch, Standard and Poor’s, and Moody’s.
“Our external position is robust with US$82.6 billion gross reserves providing cushion to extreme shocks, and adequate coverage for 12 months’ worth of imports of goods and payment of services and income. Without a doubt, the Philippines is now ready and eager to be an active regional player toward Asia’s resurgence,” Manalo said.
The Philippines is now gearing up for the 2015 Asean economic integration. As of August 2013, the Philippines had accomplished 87.2 percent of its targets in implementing the Asean Economic Community (AEC) blueprint.
Manalo expounded that the government has already raised its game to support its ambitious development program to strengthen and embolden local industries. Policy changes at the macro and microeconomic levels necessary to strengthen industries and companies ahead of the AEC are already underway.
“We continue addressing supply chain gaps through our industry roadmaps, thereby increasing productivity and competitiveness. We are into reducing the cost of doing business in the Philippines, and improving our business environment by, among others, working hard to increase our rankings based on competitiveness indicators,” Manalo said.
On trade policy, he noted that the Philippines remains a key player in multilateral and regional fora, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Asean. The country has also begun to pursue more strategic engagements with key partners through the forging of bilateral free trade agreements.
The government is closely engaging with the European Union and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) for possible bilateral free trade agreements; on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), the United States is playing an instrumental role for the Philippines “as we aim to become party to this 21st century free trade agreement,” Manalo said.