NANNING, China: In line with its aim to increase agricultural and rural productivity, the Duterte administration is pitching the country’s rural areas as an attractive investment destination at the China-Asean business and investment summit in this southern Chinese city of Nanning.
Promoting rural and value chain development toward increasing agricultural and rural enterprise productivity and rural tourism is a key provision in the 10-point socioeconomic agenda that President Rodrigo’s economic team unveiled in June.
“Our main focus is on agriculture and infrastructure, farm tourism,” said Felicitas Agoncillo-Reyes, the assistant secretary for the Investments Promotion Group of the Board of Investments (BOI), and a member of the Philippine delegation to the 13th China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) and the 13th China-Asean Business and Investment Summit.
Some 540 delegates from China’s autonomous region of Guangxi Zhuang, as well as all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and international organizations, institutions and enterprises are participating in the four-day CAEXPO, which began on Sunday.
Describing this event as “China’s face to Asean,” Reyes said that the Philippines is aiming to attract investment in agribusiness to spur growth in the agriculture sector.
As an Asean member, the Philippines is part of the Asean-China Free Trade Area that came into effect at the beginning of 2010. It is the largest free trade area in terms of population and the third largest in terms of trade volume after the European Economic Area and the North American Free Trade Area.
So, “we always come to CAEXPO to attract investments,” Reyes told reporters on the sidelines of CAEXPO roundtable meeting on investment cooperation.
Besides, she said that since many Chinese investors do not know that there are business opportunities that are waiting to be tapped in the Philippines, every year “we tell them that there are investment opportunities for China in the Philippines,” and “what kind of investments we need.”
The agriculture section, she said, “is being left behind and the challenge now is how to make it grow.
According to her, the government has already qualified the kind of investments that our country needs. “We would like investments that will benefit more people,” she added.
Agri tourism, Reyes said, is in sync with the 10-point agenda of President Duterte particularly in rural development.
The strategic channeling of investments in areas that would enhance the agriculture sector’s competitiveness is also the priority of the government, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Recently, the NEDA said further development and improvements in infrastructure facilities seem to be a winning investment, like efficient irrigation facilities and good quality transportation infrastructure.
In agriculture investment, the NEDA said geologic characteristics of the regions and provinces should be considered. Identifying their respective comparative advantage and growth potential, and developing such areas by linking agriculture with agri-business and manufacturing should be realized.
Lastly, the NEDA urged the agriculture stakeholders, both from the government and private sector, to form productive partnerships.
“Investments and efforts toward developing and modernizing Philippine agriculture will not only uplift the welfare of millions dependent on it, but help ensure food security as well,” it added.
Meanwhile, Reyes pointed out that now is the right time to take advantage of the warming relationship between China and the Philippines.
“After the visit of President Duterete in Vientiane . . . we are very positive that China, being one of our largest investors, can even invest more in the Philippines,” she said.
“Considering that we are neighbors and friends, there are many opportunities (that maybe we have missed out on before) that maybe we will now have,” she said.