THE Board of Investments (BoI) further brings more opportunities through investment, as it celebrates its 55th Founding Anniversary.

BoI sent its virtual assistants, Bordie and Vestie to a new mission of providing investment-related information to make more investments happened in the country. The names Bordie and Vestie were derived from the agency's name Board and Investments, respectively.

Bordie and Vestie will accelerate efforts to innovate BoI systems by encouraging online transactions. The duo complements other programs such as the BoI Online Service System (BOSS), which enables stakeholders to transact for various services such as application for project registration and availing of incentives, as well as submission of reports, application for endorsement, and other BoI services.

To make payment transactions more convenient, BoI partnered with Land Bank of the Philippines. Through Link.BizPortal in BOSS, clients can now make payments of fees, dues, and charges in real time in just a few clicks.

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Bordie and Vestie will initially appear in the BoI's social media posts, electronic direct mails (EDMs), and information and promotion collaterals, to provide clients and stakeholders with relevant information on doing business and other investment-related concerns.

Soon, the BOI duo will be on-boarded in the agency's digital platforms. They will be appearing or popping, through a chatbot platform seamlessly integrated with the communication channels of the BOI such as websites, social media pages, and other relevant mobile apps and platforms. Bordie and Vestie will converse with clients and stakeholders in natural tones and in different languages. This is made possible through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language process (NLP) technologies.

The BOI chatbot platform is being developed to provide a 24/7 automated program that can interact with customers regarding investment information and concerns. The platform is seen to improve the response or resolution time of inquiries and concerns and enhance client satisfaction. The information from the platforms serves as a listening tool for the BOI to review and analyze the profile and nature of the inquiries and concerns that will aid BOI in policy and process improvements.

Bordie and Vestie

Virtual assistants Bordie and Vestie are partners in promoting investments in the country. They are devoting their expertise and skills to continue making the Philippines one of the top investment destinations of choice in the world. They exemplify the unwavering productivity, reliability, and loyalty traits of the BoI officers and employees in working with the existing and prospective investors, industry players, and stakeholders, to boost the investment opportunities in the Philippines.

Bordie, clad in blue barong, always strives to be professional and disciplined, yet very accommodating and approachable. It will deliver competent and efficient service to the people and the investors. While Vestie, who is arrayed in a blue blouse, is committed to doing efficient and honest work keeping in mind the Filipino citizens as her top priority.

Both Bordie and Vestie truly value excellence, integrity, teamwork, and passion or knowledge in their incessant pursuit to render prompt, courteous public service for their countrymen. Exuding to the passion for public service, they will work hand in hand to advance the agency's ultimate goal of bringing investments into the Philippines to generate more jobs.

BoI strategically promoted the Philippines as a viable investment destination of choice for new investors by showcasing the genuine "Make it Work" mindset of Filipinos through the country's investment promotion brand "Make It Happen in the Philippines."

Making PH an investment destination

Trade undersecretary and BOI managing head Ceferino Rodolfo said a free trade agreement with Canada will facilitate a greater flow of trade, services, and investments to Asean.

BoI led the Philippine team in the first plenary meeting of the Asean-Canada Free Trade Agreement (ACAFTA) Working Group on Investment on 30 August 2022.

"For the Philippines, our national objective is to leverage Asean and position the Philippines as Canada's production hub in the region," Rodolfo said.

Philippines is also attracting Japanese companies to invest here. BOI Director Maria Rosario Dominguez said Japan is "one of the main target investors and key markets" of the country.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that in the second quarter of 2022, Japan (P6.51 billion) is among the top three countries with the highest share of approved foreign investments after the Netherlands (P19.04 billion) and Singapore (P15.89 billion).

"We must get as much information from our stakeholders to help us direct our efforts and judiciously tap resources in eyeing and getting quality investments in priority and focused sectors, which will impact the investment landscape of the Philippines," Dominguez said.

Mindanao roadshow

BoI continued its Strategic Investment Priority Plan (SIPP) roadshow to build back a better Philippines by strengthening trade and investments in the region.

Northern Mindanao is one of the largest regional economies in Mindanao, with a 4.7 percent share of the national economy in gross domestic product. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 10 regional director Ermedio Abang said the region recorded a total of P3.5 billion in monitored investments in 2021 with 34 percent from wholesale trading and 14 percent from manufacturing.

The region's integrated complementary economy has opened more opportunities for the priority industry clusters such as coffee, cacao, high-value coconut-based products, processed fruits and nuts, rubber, wearables, bamboo, processed food, and poultry, as well as information and communications technology. An effective logistics services sector is also in the works to facilitate trade and connectivity in the region. Eventually, with stable and reliable logistics, the region will encourage market expansion and improve investor confidence in transporting goods and services.

"These factors add to the many advantages of the region including having land, mineral, and marine resources and a strong service sector for agribusiness and manufacturing. Indeed, big opportunities await for investments in Region 10," Abang added.

Evariste Cagatan, executive director for investment promotion of BoI said, "We hope with the SIPP, businessmen will be enticed to go into more investments in the region".

New approvals

BoI has approved the P524.33 million- Amazon's virtual customer services (VCS) project that is viewed to bolster the information technology and business process management (IT-BPM) industry in the country. The VCS project will provide customer and vendor management services that will support Amazon's global retail business and sellers.

"This is just the start of more investments being injected into the country's economy, specifically into the IT-BPM industry. We are making it happen in the Philippines," Rodolfo said.

The company provides remote technical support services, IT development, customer support, customer care services, business process outsourcing, and back-office support, which includes but is not limited to systems, hardware, software, and human resources relating to the back-office.

In Batangas, BoI approved the P60-M high-value crops producer project. Denso Philippines has a Smart Agriculture Project that will soon operate in Ibaan, Batangas. The project supports the "Agriculture, Fishery, and Forestry," of the 2022 Strategic Investment Priority Plan (SIPP).

The project will produce microgreens, kale, arugula, herbs, and melons for hotels, restaurants, online markets (e-commerce), culinary schools, and other food-related businesses in central business district areas.

"These high-value crops will be significant in supporting urban areas and leveling up the country's agriculture industry. This is only the beginning of more projects that will make food security happen in the Philippines," Rodolfo said.

In Naga, BoI also approved the application for registration of PAVI Green Renewable Energy, Inc. for its P2-billion Naga Solar Power Plant Project, as a new renewable energy developer of solar energy resources in Luzon.

Luzon contributed 67.9 percent share of the total installed capacity in 2020, according to the Department of Energy (DoE). In power generation and consumption, Luzon recorded 71.2 percent and 72.2 percent, respectively.

The project, which was approved under Tier I based on the 2020 IPP Listing "Special Laws (Renewable Energy Act of 2008) of the 2022 Strategic Investment Priority Plan (SIPP) is expected to start commercial operations in February 2024.

"As the Philippines is heading towards a greener and modern economy, projects like this one is consequential for the attainment of the economic goals of the country. Also, the solar power plant project of PAVI Green will play a crucial role in building up the capacity needed to sustain electricity demand in Luzon, ensuring an unhampered supply of power to consumers," Rodolfo said.

In addition, the project will contribute to the required capacity addition of 73,868 MW that is needed to meet the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) target of 81,485 MW for the total installed capacity by 2040 under the Clean Energy Scenario (CES).

In Misamis Occidental, BOI gave the 'greenlight' for the Php924-million desiccated coconut project of Consolidated Coconut Corp. As a new export producer of desiccated coconut, the project is expected to shore up the country's export of the product with target markets in various countries.

It will soon operate in Plaridel, Misamis Occidental with an annual capacity of 93,750 metric tons (MT) of desiccated coconut.

2021 performance

From January to December 2021, total BOI-approved investments reached Php655.42 billion which was a 36 percent contraction from the Php1.018 trillion in 2020. Local investments accounted for 77% of total approved investments with Php503.63 billion while approvals from foreign sources amounted to Php151.80 billion or a 23% share.

Former Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said it is understandable that the BOI-approved investments for 2021 declined from 2020's P1.018 trillion due to the sporadic pause of investors, as waves of Covid-19 resurgence occurred across the globe.

"While approved foreign investments contributed Php151.8 billion (or about $3 billion) to the total figure, we were buoyed by the fact that we witnessed a record-breaking $10.5 billion in actual foreign direct investments (FDI) as shown by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) data in 2021 wherein capital inflows surged in the second half with investors being bullish, as the lion's share of investments were infused across manufacturing, power, finance and real estate sectors," Lopez said.

Local investors, meanwhile, continued to keep the faith, accounting for 77% of the total approved figure or Php503.63 billion. On the national front, the year 2021 ended on a high note, as Philippines registered a 5.8% gross domestic product (GDP) growth, a remarkable turnaround from the 9.6% contraction the year before and powered by a robust 7.8% rise in the last quarter. Philippines ended up among the fastest growing economies in the Southeast Asian region despite the pandemic.

This is in large part due to the calibrated reopening of industries towards the latter half igniting the steady growth of the manufacturing sector and the accelerated vaccination resulting in the relaxing of restrictions.

Philippines is in the radar of most international ratings agencies and financial institutions declaring that "we are poised to become among the fastest growing economies, if not the fastest, not only in Southeast Asia but in the whole of Asia in the coming year."

The 2021 foreign direct investments (FDI) figure is another upside as it reached a historic $10.5 billion, which surpassed the government forecast of $8.5 billion. The previous record of $10.3 billion was set in 2017.

The growth in FDI reflected continued positive foreign investor sentiment for the country amid expectations of a rebound in domestic economic activity and the ensuing decline of Covid-19 cases while the global economy steadies its course towards recovery.

BoI has reconfigured its priority sectors into three global value chain clusters – industrials, manufacturing and transport (IMT); technology, media and telecommunication (TMT); and Health and Life Science (HLS). This year, BoI included the hyperscalers industry as a priority sector for promotion, as it envisions the country as Asia Pacific's next hyperscalers hub.

BoI had 36 virtual and hybrid promotional events in Asia, East Asia, Asean, South Asia, Middle East Asia, China including Hong Kong, Australia, United States, Europe and multi-markets last year.

For the second consecutive year, the Philippines was the Guest Country of Honor for 2021 at the China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) wherein the BoI promoted manufacturing covering automotive, aerospace, copper products, medical devices and construction materials; hyperscalers; innovation and digital technologies /start-ups; agri-business; real estate development; renewable energy and infrastructure to prospective investors.

BoI's promotional efforts resulted in 171 positive leads or the equivalent of Php945.07 billion of investments. Some of these projects include a new domestic shipping operator; new operator of charging stations; three new operators of telecommunications infrastructure; a new producer of animal feeds and a cement manufacturer.

BoI is keeping the Philippines as an attractive investment destination and is supporting economic recovery despite the impact of economic headwinds around the world. It continues to focus on keeping businesses afloat and even helping them expand so that they can navigate through the new normal.

Covid response

When the Covid-19 pandemic started, the country experienced difficulties in sourcing face masks, personal protective equipment (PPEs), and even oxygen supply. Thanks to the manufacturing repurposing program, for making the country self-sufficient in face masks, PPEs and oxygen.

"For long-term prospects, we are pushing for the local manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines. A local company has already registered to be the domestic producer of Molnupiravir, an oral therapy for Covid patients," Lopez said.

The BoI has talked to eight local companies that have expressed their interest in manufacturing vaccines locally. They are in discussions with potential foreign manufacturers and technology providers from India, Korea, China, Taiwan, and possibly from the United States and Australia. For instance, Glovax Biotech has partnered with a Korean vaccine manufacturer to produce the EuCorVac-19 vaccines in the Philippines. In the longer term, the government aims to have a full-scale vaccine manufacturing facility which is critical in providing the country a sense of security and self-sufficiency to address current and future health emergencies and pandemics.

The BoI joined hands with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the Vaccine Self-Reliance Program (VSRP) study that was started by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). The collaboration intends to either attract a vaccine originator to locally manufacture vaccines in the country or broker a partnership between a local manufacturer and a select vaccine originator to do the local vaccine manufacturing.

In addition to producing Covid-19 vaccines locally, the BOI has approved the application of Lloyd Laboratories, Inc. as a domestic producer of Molnupiravir, an oral therapy for Covid-19

patients. The company recently expanded its production facility in Malolos, Bulacan to produce the drug. With an estimated cost of Php24 million and an annual capacity of one million of 400 mg capsules of Molnupiravir, the project is expected to start production in 2022.

With the project operational, the price of Molnupiravir is expected to go down. The suggested retail price (SRP) of the locally made Molnupiravir is P65/pill, which is much lower than its imported counterpart which sells around Php100 a pill to P150/pill. It will provide a Covid patient around Php35 to Php85 in savings per pill.

BoI is responsible for the development of investments in the Philippines and for leading the promotions of various industries and investment opportunities. BoI assists Filipino and foreign investors to venture and thrive in vast areas of economic pursuits and acts as a one-stop shop for doing business in the Philippines.