A delegation of government and business leaders from the Philippines spoke alongside their British counterparts at the recent Invest Philippines: Economic Briefing and Trade & Investment Opportunities Conference organized by Asia House.
Opening the conference, HE Enrique Manalo, Ambassador of the Philippines to the UK, noted that with annual growth of 7.5 per cent, it was an excellent time to invest in the Philippines.
The Ambassador encouraged conference delegates to “learn more and be a part of the exciting times.”
Recently returned from a trip to Manila, Lord Green, UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment, highlighted opportunities for British retailers to do business in the Philippines, given its strong consumer economy. Lord Green also commended President Aquino for his efforts in developing the country’s infrastructure.
Delivering the keynote address was Secretary Gregory S Domingo of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry. The Secretary was keen to promote the President’s agenda of good governance and inclusive growth. He was also happy to announce that the Philippines had been given investment-grade rating by three of the world’s leading ratings agencies. However, Secretary Domingo noted that despite its recent economic success, the Philippines remains relatively underrepresented in Europe. The Secretary said that demographically, with an average age of 23, the Philippines was in a ‘sweet spot’ where the country’s economic growth could be sustained for a long period of time.
Representing the private sector were HSBC Philippines CEO Jose Arnulfo ‘Wick’ Veloso and Shell Companies in the Philippines Country Chairman, Edgar O Chua. Both men were keen to see more engagement with the UK. “We used to hold hands 250 years ago – we’d like to feel the warmth again,” joked Veloso. Chairman Chua was keen to highlight that the negative image of the Philippines, including its past performance issues, were being resolved through the institutionalisation of governmental reforms. He encouraged the UK to “take advantage of the momentum [in the Philippines].”
Cesar V Purisima, Secretary, Department of Finance spoke about the investors’ renewed confidence in long term capital investment in the country. He also talked about how the country’s growing middle class was driving growth.
Cosette V Canilao, Executive Director, Public-Private Partnership Centre, spoke about the essential role of the private sector as the main engine for national growth through the development of the country’s infrastructure. Canilao spoke at length about the Government’s commitment to enhancing its legal and regulatory framework and their drive to institutionalise these reforms. The Philippines currently has 47 PPP projects in the pipeline.
Philippines Investment Conference
The public was very interested in learning what made the Philippines unique among other ASEAN member states. Secretary Domingo answered that the Philippines’ demographics, English language skills and highly-educated population offered the best value for money in ASEAN. Meanwhile Diwa Guinigundo, Deputy Govenor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, said that his country had demonstrated resiliency through the financial crisis and the institutionalisation of banking reforms made the Philippines stand out among other Southeast Asian nations.
Other questions from the audience related to the prospect for an EU-Philippines agreement and the potential for the development of Mindanao.
Undersecretary for the Department of Trade and Industry, Ponciano C Manalo Jr, spoke about the Philippines’ growing presence in the shipping and aerospace industries, while Richard Weatherstone, Director, Shore Solutions, discussed the merits of using Filipino business process outsourcing (BPO) because of high quality of English-speaking human resources. Representatives from Arup and KPMG spoke of some of the challenges their firms had encountered in the country including political risk, getting projects into procurement and balancing domestic competition versus international challengers.
The conference ended with closing remarks from former Ambassador Jesus P. Tambunting of the Philippine British Business Council, followed by a reception where guests enjoyed networking with Filipino and British business leaders, embassy officials and government representatives.
The Invest Philippines Conference was part of Asia House’s focus on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its 10 member states. Previous events include ‘Investment Opportunities in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam’, Corporate Member’s briefing with the UK Ambassador to Indonesia & Sir Henry Keswick and the ASEAN Opportunity Conference featuring a keynote address from ASEAN Deputy Secretary General, Dr. Lim Hong Hin. Further, our Director of Corporate Affairs Charlie Humphreys attended the ASEAN Business & Investment Summit in Brunei in August, and we have featured an ‘ASEAN’ blog series in partnership with Future Foreign Policy.