The British government believes that the Philippines is an “emerging power” and could turn into a “phenomenal country” but its Ambassador to Manila Asif Ahmad highlighted the importance of infrastructure development to economic progress.
During a roundtable with editors and reporters of The Manila Times, the British envoy on Thursday said the Philippines is one of several countries that the United Kingdom can engage with in trade, economics, investments and people-to-people relations in the “30-year horizon.”
The Philippines, according to Ahmad, “is one [of those identified as an emerging power]” because of its economic integration, its role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the British community here.
The other factors that make the Philippines viable for engagement with the UK is Manila’s role in fighting counter-terrorism, and its campaign on climate change and open global trading, he said.
The envoy noted that the Philippines also plays a big role in advancing human rights in Southeast Asia.
Ahmad said many high-ranking British officials visited the country in recent months, proof that the British government is giving importance to the Philippines.
The British Embassy in Manila also has a full-time economist here, a regional economist based in Singapore and another department that deals with that aspect in London.
Ahmad said the UK has also been very supportive of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) introduced by the Aquino administration.
But there is another challenge for the Philippines, the envoy added.
“My challenge not only to this administration but to the next administration—I am talking to anyone with presidential ambitions—the challenge for this country . . . is to have a national blueprint for a road network,” he said.
A road network would be economically beneficial for the Philippines, he added.
Ahmad backed Charter change that would amend economic provisions under the 1987 Philippine Constitution and allow foreigners and foreign companies to own a larger percentage of a Philippine-based company.
But he noted that in terms of the “Asean story, the Philippines is not doing as well as it could in terms of investment.”
The ambassador explained that foreign businessmen have to go through the bureaucracy and the backdoor in order to invest in the country.
He said the UK’s concern about issues of corruption in the government would not be obstacles for British companies to invest in the Philippines.
The envoy pointed out that London places great importance in the prosecution of those accused of corruption and supports good-governance practices.
“But this is not a long list of complaints. It only validates what we are talking about that the UK is taking the Philippines seriously. With these policy changes, [the Philippines]might be a phenomenal country,” Ahmad said.