Spain eyes PH as next investment hub in Asia

by Catherine N. Pillas, BusinessMirror

Posted at Mar 25 2014 07:43 AM | Updated as of Mar 25 2014 03:43 PM

MANILA - Spain is now looking to the Philippines as the best hub to establish its presence in Asia in preparation for the Asean Economic Community in 2015, and cited infrastructure as a viable area of investment.

“I think the Philippines is the best hub we can think of to introduce our companies and our economy in Asia, and I hope that we can find good partners to start business in this part of the world,” said Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo at the Makati Business Club (MBC) General Membership Meeting at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

This message comes at the heels of the economic recovery of Spain, which, according to Margallo, was among the European countries hardest hit by the global financial crisis.

Among the blows that the Spanish economy has experienced are a dramatic fall of its gross domestic product, high public deficit and a growing public debt.

However, with the significant fiscal reforms undertaken by the country in the past years, Spain is now changing its model based on enhanced competitiveness, productivity and export-driven, Margallo said.

Gross domestic product growth and employment rates are improving, as well as public deficit, Margallo reported and is looking to Asia, the Philippines, in particular, to be the next investment hub.

“That is why this important Spanish business delegation is here, to explore and take advantage of all the things that the Philippines may offer to Spain,” he said.

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, executive director of the MBC, revealed that with the Asean economic integration in 2015, Spain is looking to the Philippines as a possible hub from which Spanish economic presence can take hold in the rest of Asia.

Perfecto added that the 25-member Spanish business delegation presently in the Philippines will undertake meetings with Philippine companies, led by the Ayala Group.

The MBC official added in a chance interview after the forum that the Spanish delegation is eyeing infrastructure development, in particular, as 37 percent of the whole transport infrastructure in the world is managed by Spanish companies.

“We are exploring possibilities in many areas, but since the Philippines is aiming to have good infrastructure in order to attract investments to the country, infrastructure is one area that Spanish companies are especially qualified in,” said another Spanish trade official during the open forum.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan, who also attended the forum, welcomed Spain’s interest in infrastructure development and additionally called attention to tourism, agribusiness and industrial manufacturing as ripe opportunities for Spanish businessmen.

The Spanish firms making rounds with their Philippine counterparts are engaged in various sectors but are mostly in infrastructure and tourism.

To solidify the commitment between Spain and the Philippines in developing business relations for both sides, a memorandum of agreement was signed on Monday between two business groups in Spain—the High Council of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Navigation of Spain, and the Confederation of Employers and Industries of Spain—and the Makati Business Club.

According to data from the Department of Trade and Industry, bilateral trade between Spain and the Philippines grew by 19 percent from 2010 to 2012, or from $304 million to $362 million, and is the Philippines’s seventh-largest trading partner in Europe.

Bilateral trade between the two countries as of the first semester of 2013 is valued at $225 million.

In terms of tourism, 17,000 Spaniards have visited the Philippines in 2013, up by 7.7 percent from 2012, according to Department of Tourism statistics, while Filipino visitors to Spain were pegged at 50,000 in 2013.