DEFENSE contractor Saab of Sweden wants to supply military equipment to the Philippines, amid efforts by the Duterte administration to reduce the country’s reliance on US defense supplies.
Swedish Ambassador-designate Harald Fries on Friday said the Saab Group opened a new office in Manila on Wednesday.
“They are looking into business partnerships here,” he told reporters in Malacañang.
Fries, who earlier told a roundtable discussion with The Manila Times staff that a number of Swedish firms were eyeing investments in the Philippines, said Saab could offer coastal surveillance equipment and even submarines to the Philippines.
“This company, Saab, they have very advanced civilian systems and products which I think could be very useful for the Philippines. For instance, air traffic control for airports or maritime traffic management and surveillance systems,” he said.
Sweden has reopened its embassy in Manila, eight years after shutting it down because of budget cuts caused by the global financial crisis.
Asked whether Swedish businessmen had concerns with the new administration, Fries said: “I haven’t heard from any Swedish businessmen any concrete hesitancies or concern about doing business here. On the contrary, it’s been very positive comments that I have heard.”
The Philippines has “many positive factors” that attract Swedish businessmen, including a stable economy, the diplomat said.
“It’s a country with more than a hundred million people, and combine that with high growth rates. I mean anyone would like to come here and do business with such a huge and growing market, and stable inflation, sound fiscal situation, and very importantly, a young talented, well-educated, and English-speaking population,” Fries said.
The Swedish envoy cited the Duterte administration’s 10-point socioeconomic program.
“Tax reform is in the pipeline. Reduced restrictions in foreign ownership, we’re also looking forward to that. You have a very large remittances coming in every year, which means that adds to stability of the economy and it adds to consumption power, which is a very positive factor,” he said.
“I also think that the President’s anti-poverty programs are very welcome. I mean in the long run, it’s critical for any country to get rid of poverty. It’s good not only for the poor people but for the whole society of course,” he added.
Aside from economic cooperation, Sweden wants to increase “people-to-people exchange” between the two countries.
“Look at tourism for instance. I think there are more than 15 times as many Swedes visiting Thailand than visiting the Philippines, which I find hard to understand,” Fries said.
“I’m sure that maybe with the better infrastructure here in this country, we will see many, many more Swedes coming to visit the Philippines and enjoying your beautiful islands,” he added.