PH positions itself as ‘gateway’ to ASEAN, 5 economic powers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 January) – The Philippines’ strategic location will make it a gateway to the 620 million population of the ASEAN region and five other important trading partners, Trade and Industry secretary Ramon Lopez said in his presentation Friday where he pitched for the country as a potential investment destination for Japanese companies in Asia.

Speaking before key Japanese officials and senior business executives at the Philippines-Japan Business Forum at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao, Lopez said the country was entering an economic “sweet spot,” meaning its labor force has more young workers.

Aside from being at the center of the 10-member ASEAN, he said the Philippines is also strategically closer to advanced economies like China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Japan.

The Philippines has existing free trade agreements with these countries, he said.

Lopez said investors would enjoy an immense market size if they choose to invest in the Philippines.

“If you sum up the population of all those countries in ASEAN, plus six other countries, it is already one-half of the world’s population, and it covers 1/3 of the world’s economy,” he said.

The official said he believes that the young Filipino population will propel the country’s economy which will benefit in turn the foreign investors.

“If you imagine, many of these young population are empowered, educated, and with purchasing power, in effect, you will have a wider base for consumers and since they are young, it will take many years for us to enjoy and even grow further this consumer base that we have,” he said.

“On human capital, we have a rich pool of talented Filipinos graduates,” he said.

Citing the 7.1-percent gross domestic product as of third quarter of 2016, Lopez also banked on the country’s strong economic fundamentals to draw more foreign direct investments.

“It is the faster growing economy. There is a revival of manufacturing, growing by 8 percent , higher than the service sector, which continues to grow by 6.1 percent. All the positive indicators – inflation has been stable, improving our ranking in the competitiveness index, business confidence and consumer confidence on the rise, and many other positive macroeconomic indicators – have been there,” he said.

The Philippine economic team was upbeat that the business forum will bring in more Japanese investments particularly in Mindanao.

Lopez said the forum enabled investors from the two countries to network and discuss viable business opportunities for stronger economic ties.

In his message, Mindanao Development Authority Secretary Datu Abdul Khayr Alonto, said that Mindanao is honored by the historic visit to Davao City of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, other Japanese officials and business leaders.

“The visit does not only rekindled the historic ties shared between Davao City and Japan , but has brought the Philippine-Japan relations to a new level, one founded on shared aspiration for Mindanao’s peace, progress and formation,” Alonto said.

Some 100 investors from both countries gathered during the forum, over 20 of which are from the Japanese delegation.

He underscored to the Japanese investors that Mindanao “is open and ready for business,” thus a viable investment destination.

Alonto said Mindanao, an undiscovered gem, is endowed with key ingredients for a prime investment area within the country, blessed with an abundance of primary resources including minerals, and possesses vast scope for economic growth and diversification owing to Mindanao’s BIMP-Eaga connection.

He lauded Japan for its continued support through the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Davao City Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, speaking on behalf of City Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte, voiced optimism that the forum will translate to opening of more doors for inclusive development and progress between the two countries, especially in the cities and provinces of Mindanao.

In a bid to enhance investor confidence, Dayanghirang said the city government is strengthening its peace and security programs.

Ronald Go, Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. president said Mindanao can expect better things to come in after the forum.

“With a G7 leader finally visiting Davao, we are excited with the prospects for more business opportunities here. He shows not only the people of Japan that he is confident in this area, but the rest of the world as well,” Go said.

He added that the visit by the Japanese delegation composed of business leaders augurs well for increased economic activity in the city. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)