CAN the Philippines be the next Singapore under the Duterte administration?
More than 16 million Filipinos catapulted Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency on hopes that he would rule like
Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed a sleepy city-state into a first-world, crime-free economy.
Singaporean Ambassador to Manila Kok Li Peng sees such signs early in Duterte’s administration. It will not be easy for Duterte, though, she said.
“I think your president has many challenges to face and to deal with. But what’s striking is that he’s got a very comprehensive agenda and his ensemble is very experienced and very capable. He’s going to do it,” she told The Manila Times in a roundtable discussion Thursday.
Duterte took over an economy regarded by the Oxford Business Group (OBG) as the “best” in Southeast Asia.
The Philippine Stock Exchange index now trades at 7,000, nearly double the 3,600 in 2008. Foreign direct investments tripled during the period.
The Singaporean envoy was optimistic Duterte’s team wil be able to fulfill Filipinos’ dream of a wealthy, modern, clean and safe country.
“I think it’s the Philippines’ time. Every country has a time,” Kok said. “This is it.”
Kok said Singapore was more than willing to help the Philippines in its road to prosperity.
“In our bilateral relations, I think this is an exciting time in terms of the Philippine economy. Your economic growth is amazing and it has steadied for the last couple of years. So anything that boosts that further is going to draw a lot of attention,” she said.
Kok disclosed renewed interest among Singaporean businessmen in the Philippines’ retail, infrastructure, transportation and tourism sectors.
Singaporean carriers are also looking at adding more flights, especially to Manila, notwithstanding congestion problems in Philippine airports.
Investors are confident that these issues will be solved soon, she said.
Singapore carriers operate 148 weekly passenger flights in the Philippines, flying to Clark, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo and Manila.
“If we open up and improve connectivity, I think people-to-people links will be strengthened, it will boost tourism and businesses will come,” she said. “Once you connect two points, many things can happen.”