Gov't eyes more infra projects outside Metro Manila

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez,

Posted at Feb 18 2014 04:15 PM | Updated as of Feb 19 2014 12:15 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The Aquino administration is planning to focus on more infrastructure projects outside Metro Manila, which will allow the rest of the country to benefit from economic growth, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said on Tuesday.

Purisima highlighted the need for infrastructure in areas outside Metro Manila, particularly airports, to attract more investors into the country.

“The key really there is making sure that there is infrastructure outside Metro Manila to make it easier for businesses to do business,” he said during the 3rd Euromoney Philippine Investment Forum.

Purisima cited the upgrade of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, and the opening of the Laguindingan Airport last year.

He said that while the awarding of the contract for the Mactan-Cebu airport project has been delayed, it shows that government is focused on developing infrastructure outside Metro Manila.

“Policy-wise, the President has opened up the skies outside of Metro Manila because the focus of our tourism drive is really outside Metro Manila,” Purisima said.

“If you look at the pipeline projects, most are in Metro Manila but more and more are being devoted outside of Metro Manila,” he added.

Purisima also highlighted the importance of the ongoing peace negotiations in Mindanao, which will open doors for business opportunities in the region.

He said Mindanao also plays a key role in the ASEAN integration not only because of its resources but also because of its location.

“Mindanao if you look at the map, is the southernmost and second largest landmass in the country and least hit by typhoons, and is the closest to the rest of ASEAN. The reason it has not live up to its potential is because of its peace and order situation, and the President is really, pulling his political capital to make sure that by the end of his term, the peace is there,” he said.

'More upside in 2014'

Purisima said he sees more upside than downside in the Philippine economy in 2014 due to investments in several key industries.

“The focus of this administration is to make sure that we continue to increase investments and to continue to make it easier to do business in the country,” he said.

Purisima said there is much growth to be seen in the manufacturing and agriculture, which only produces 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

“That number alone shows that there is much to be improved in terms of use of technology, use of better seeds, better access to financing and making sure that we focus on investing in agriculture in areas that are less sustainable to disasters,” he said.

Purisima also said that the rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas is expected to bring sustainable growth to the economy as private firms pitch in to manage the reconstruction efforts.

“It will take time obviously, but if we do it properly, we will actually build a better economy in that area,” he said.

Meanwhile, chief investment officer of Deutsche Bank Frederico Ocampo, believes that reconstruction spending in 2014 will replace last year's election spending.

“Most probably slow in the first half, but more robust in the second half and on to 2015,” he said.

Ocampo added that the drivers of economic growth in 2014 will be consumer demand, government spending and the emergence of both local and foreign investments.

“Everybody that you meet in the Philippines, especially in the Makati, are busy expanding their businesses and that’s a consensus view that this is the best time to invest in the Philippines,” he said.