ECONOMIC officials highlighted the country’s brisk growth and competitive advantages in a bid to drum up investor interest in the Philippines at the ongoing 46th General Assembly of the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA) which Manila is hosting.
The annual event is a venue where members from various trade centers globally build their networks and discuss a wide range of business opportunities, more so in the host country.
“Over the last three years, the Philippines had been the second-fastest growing among major economies in Asia next to China. Economists project that this trajectory will hold in the years to come,” Guillermo Luchangco, chair and CEO of World Trade Center Metro Manila, said during his welcome remarks for the event, which opened last April 26 and will run until April 29.
“Our people, who are well educated, friendly, eager to serve, and who are known for their productivity, are one of the factors that attract firms to set up shop here,” Luchangco added.
Francisco Dakila Jr., director at the Center for Monetary and Financial Policy of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), said in a presentation that one of the advantages of the Philippines is that it enjoys a unique combination of robust growth and within-target inflation.
‘Pillars of strength’
“The Philippines is not immune to external risks, but it has homegrown pillars of strength such as the positive alignment between growth and inflation,” Dakila said.
Gross domestic product (GDP) growth last year was recorded at 6.1 percent while inflation averaged at 4.1 percent (versus a target range of 3 to 5 percent). This made 2014 the sixth consecutive year that consumer prices rose at a pace within the target range.
With inflation managed properly, businesses are better able to plan operations. Based on the latest forecast of the BSP, inflation will fall within the target of 2 to 4 percent this year and next year.
Dakila likewise highlighted the strong financial system, which he said will help ensure that businesses will have sources of funds for their investment plans.
Bien Ganapin, assistant director at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said the Philippines is expected to continue being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with the government having set the growth target range for this year and next at 7 to 8 percent.
“It is our desire that the private sector rally behind us in our aim to achieve inclusive growth,” Ganapin said as he emphasized the country’s efforts to attract more investments.
Eleazar Ricote, deputy executive director at the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Center, said the Philippine government’s push for infrastructure development is consistent with the goal of enticing investments.
$3-B PPP projects awarded
The government invites private investments in public infrastructure projects under the PPP program.
He said the program at the moment has 45 infrastructure projects in the pipeline worth $28.5 billion and several other projects whose costs have yet to be determined.
So far under the Aquino administration, nine infrastructure projects under the PPP program worth $3.0 billion have been awarded.
During the open forum, PEZA Director General Lilia de Lima invited exporters to locate in any of the country’s 316 economic zones that offer fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to locators.
De Lima noted that the Philippines is covered by the “Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+)” with the European Union. As such, about 6,000 items produced from the Philippines get preferential treatment from the EU.
“If you locate in any of these ecozones in the Philippines, you also open yourselves to the 600-million market of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nation),” De Lima said.
ASEAN, where the Philippines is a member, targets to formally start the process of economic integration toward the end of this year.
Aside from providing an outlook on the economy, how to do business in the Philippines, which covers the topics of taxation and registration, will also be discussed during the event.
Trade centers around the world are responsible for the setup of trade shows and exhibitions to promote investments in various sectors.
WTCA is composed of 331 trade centers around the globe representing 92 countries. WTCA describes itself as an “international ecosystem” that provides global business connections and trade services to its members. VOLTAIRE PALAÑA