Security, transparency vital to attracting investments in PH

By Imelda V. Abano, Business Mirror

Posted at Mar 14 2011 03:37 AM | Updated as of Mar 14 2011 03:36 PM

SINGAPORE — Top business leaders here expressed optimism about the investment climate in the Philippines, urging the present administration to improve the security and transparency of investments which are vital factors to lure foreign companies.

In a meeting between Singapore’s business leaders and President Aquino, Singapore co-chairman of the Philippines-Singapore Business Council Choo Chiau Beng said they welcome the new administration’s emphasis on transparency and competition for businesses, specifically on the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) program.

“For Singapore companies investing in the Philippines, it is very critical that the law and the courts have credibility. And I would urge the president to ensure that,” said Choo, also the chief executive officer of Keppel Corp. “I understand that the Philippines is expected to launch a large number of projects this year. This sends a strong signal that the government is taking pro-active measures to ensure that the country’s economic growth is sustainable in the long run.”

Speaking before some 200 members of the Singapore Business Forum/International Enterprise Eminent Leaders on the last day of his three-day state visit here, Aquino vowed to curb corruption in a bid to create a pro-business environment in the Philippines, adding that the overall climate in the country “is now more conducive to business and investments” under his leadership.

In the past few years, corruption—along with problems with transparency—efficiency and bureaucracy are keeping foreign companies from investing in the Philippines. According to the 2010 Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, the Philippines is rated as “highly corrupt” and is ranked 134th most corrupt country out of 178 countries.

In his speech, Aquino said the Philippines has embarked on “redesigning the building of state” by “redesigning the culture of governance, alleviating poverty by curbing corruption; by instituting reforms in the military, where faulty procurement practices have robbed our soldiers of decent equipment and dignified living standards; in the judiciary, where Lady Justice’s scales have tipped toward the privileged few; and all across the bureaucracy, where a lack of integrity and competence has been the norm, rather than the exception.”

Other reforms his administration will implement, the President said, include: 
- addressing the challenges rooted upon a lack of infrastructure that will make the Philippines a more attractive investment destination by pursuing greater cooperation with the private sector through the PPP scheme
- cutting red tape
- ensuring the proper and responsible use of government resources

“Simply put, this means making sure that no one goes hungry; that the welfare of the people is treated as a priority; that each citizen is granted the opportunity to fulfill his potential and no one gets left behind,” he said.

Aquino lauded the Singaporeans for showing the way to achieving this is not an impossible feat. “Your government has already signified its willingness to help a brother nation reach the same heights that you have reached. Partnering with us holds both tangible and intangible rewards. It means also a commitment to lifting the lives of a people who only recently had learned how to dream again,” the President said.

Under the PPP scheme projects, Aquino said the Philippines plans to develop infrastructure projects such as roads, railways, airports and energy projects which are expected to open up more opportunities for foreign investments.

“By the end of the month, we expect to bid out five PPP projects as testament to our willingness to engage and empower the private sector,” said Aquino, adding that airport expansion in Cebu, Bohol and Palawan are among the key priorities of his administration.

Other projects included in the PPP program include the maintenance for the Light Rail Transit 1 and 3 costing P7.7 billion and P6.3 billion; the P1.6-billion Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway link road project; P10.6-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2; and the P21-billion North Luzon Expressway-Slex connector road.

Aside from helping businessmen invest in the country, the President said the PPP program will “provide the infrastructure necessary to fuel the growth that we need” by freeing our national budget to address social concerns.