Despite its controversial and deadly drug war, the Philippines under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte maintains a business-friendly approach and offers vast opportunities for investors, says the Thai envoy to the Philippines.
The Philippines is learning from us now, says Ambassador Thanatip.
“Generally speaking, Mr Duterte likes Thais and Thailand,” Ambassador Thanatip Upatising told the Bangkok Post from his Manila residence on Wednesday.
“The president thinks we are a model of development to look up to. We learned from them in the 1970s and now they are learning from us in several aspects.”
Mr Thanatip had an unscheduled informal meeting with Mr Duterte in Davao last week and said he was assured by the president and other members of his administration that the pro-business policies of the Aquino administration would be kept.
“Economic reform and efforts to fight corruption will continue while the energy sector will continue to welcome Thai investors,” he said.
The firebrand former mayor of Davao for over two decades, Mr Duterte, 71, who took office on June 30, promised initiatives to boost growth and create jobs to lift people out of poverty, looking to cut personal and corporate taxes, speed up infrastructure spending and relax economic restrictions.
Ernesto Pernia, the socioeconomic planning secretary, said the administration sees a steady acceleration in growth to 7-8% in the medium term.
After nearly seven decades of diplomatic relations starting in 1949, the Philippines is Thailand’s sixth-largest trading partner in Southeast Asia and 18th-largest trading partner in the world.
Two-way trade value in 2015 stood at US$8.35 billion, with Thailand having a trade surplus of $3.63 billion, according to Thai embassy data.
Among major Thai corporations in the Philippines are Siam Cement Group, Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), PTT Plc, Bangkok Bank Plc, Dusit Thani Plc, Erawan Group Plc, Electricity Generating Plc (Egco) and Patkol Plc.
Mr Thanatip has recently been busy welcoming Thai companies looking to invest in wind and solar power projects in the Philippines.
Egco has invested in two coal-powered plants in the Philippines and is building two more, reported the Thai embassy.
With a network of 90 PTT service stations in the Philippines, Thailand’s energy heavyweight is executing its plan to introduce its Amazon coffee chain into the archipelago, said the ambassador.
CP, which has been in the Philippines for 13 years, is working with the Thai embassy to expand its feed, poultry and swine business to include premium jasmine rice in the market, which a major importer of Thai rice.
Erawan Group plans to open 15 hotels under the budget Hop Inn brand in the Philippines in 2016. Hop Inn is its flagship brand for this market, reported BusinessMirror.
Apart from business opportunities, the Philippines also offers a rich pool of English-speaking teachers and nurses, said the ambassador.
“We already have many English-speaking Filipino teachers in Thai private schools. We hope our relationship will bring more of them to state schools,” he said.
The abundance of nurses can also help replenish the shortage of English-speaking nurses in Thailand, Mr Thanatip said.