Kuala Lumpur seeks to firm up economic ties with Manila

By Catherine N. Pillas, BusinessMirror

Posted at May 24 2014 09:16 AM | Updated as of May 24 2014 05:16 PM

Malaysia is seeking to firm up economic relations with the Philippines buoyed by renewed demand for Philippines electrical exports back home and substantial investments made by the Philippines in Malaysia.

“We need to foster closer economic ties, we see potential in the Philippines as the growth has been robust in the past years,” Malaysian Trade Minister for International Trade and Industry Dato Sri Mustapa bin Mohamed said at a news conference after the signing of a partnership agreement between IX Telecom Sdn Bhd and Globe Telecom on Friday.

The Malaysian trade minister is also in the country to participate in the two-day World Economic Forum held at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel, and accompanied a Malaysian business delegation also in the country.

Mustapa stressed that two-way promotions to explore business prospects should be intensified by business councils in both countries, given that Malaysia and the Philippines have parallel investments.

“We are represented in infrastructure, hospitality, finance sectors in the Philippines. The prospects are good for closer ties, and we expect more investments from the Philippines as well,” Mustapa said.

The biggest investment from the Philippines, according to the trade minister is the $1.2- billion investment by San Miguel Corp. for the upgrade of petrol stations and a fuel refinery in Malaysia

Mustapa said that despite the slowdown of Malaysian imports of electrical and electronic products from the Philippines last year that dragged down bilateral trade by at least 7 percent, there is an anticipated pickup of demand for the said products this year, thus improving over all trade.

Electrical and electronics products comprise a 54.4-percent share of total Philippines exports to Malaysia, which in 2013 was valued at $1.5 billion according to the Department of Statistics of Malaysia.

Malaysia also experienced slow growth last year of 4.7 percent, said Mustapa, which also contributed to decrease in bilateral trade.

However, further improving the investment climate between the two countries is the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which the Malaysian government had a hand in facilitating.

“[Malaysia and the Philippines] have become closer especially with the signing of the Bangsamoro Peace Agreement. Malaysia played an important role in this agreement that will bring about peace and prosperity in the Philippines. This is again another important dimension securing ties and signalling closer collaboration," Mustapa said.