US investors more concerned with PH judicial policy

By Louella D. Desiderio, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 30 2012 09:11 AM | Updated as of Aug 30 2012 05:11 PM

MANILA, Philippines - American firms looking to invest in the Philippines are more concerned with the country’s courts than on the rules on ownership of land.

US Ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr. said at the Makati Business Club and Management Association of the Philippines Joint Membership Meeting yesterday that while the US government is trying to encourage American firms to invest in the Southeast Asian region including the Philippines, there have been some concerns raised by companies.

While there may have been some foreign companies that have raised concerns over the country’s rules on land ownership, Thomas said this is not the biggest issue for American firms looking to invest in the Philippines.

“The largest thing is not ownership of land issue. It’s transparency, speed of investment, and the court system. I think for most of them, more so than the land issue,” he said.

He said companies are looking for transparency in the court system, speed of decision making as well as predictability in business.

He said that apart from concerns cited by companies looking to invest, he said they also face other challenges in encouraging firms to make an investment in the country as some businesses do not know about the Philippines, while some are not looking to invest overseas.

He noted that some $150 billion worth of US investments have been made in the Southeast Asian region, with the bulk or $100 billion in Singapore.

Between $6 to $9 billion of US investments in the region are in the Philippines.

Thomas said the US remains committed to the future of the Philippine economy.

The US and the Philippines have a trade and investment framework agreement which provides strategic principles and procedures for dialogue for the expansion of trade and investment flows between the two countries.

When asked about the Philippines plan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, Thomas said the US is hopeful that the Philippines would be able to prepare for it.

“The TPP has several nations already involved and it has to be up to those nations to allow other nations to come in, but the Philippines has told us they would like to be eventually in the TPP when it opens. We hope the Philippines will be able to prepare themselves for that in a manner consistent with its constitution and how it would like to do that,” he said.

The TPP is an agreement aiming to further liberalize the economies of the Asia-Pacific region which covers trade in goods, services, intellectual property and competition policy among others.

As for the Save the Industries Act Bill that is pending before the US Congress, Thomas said that it may be difficult for it to be passed this year.

“It is just very difficult to get anything passed in an election year. We’ll see next year,” he said.

The Save Act is seen to revive the local garments industry as it allows for the duty-free exportation to America of garments that use raw materials from the US.