Aquino: Philippines a 'far cry' from 5 years ago

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2015 12:00 PM | Updated as of Jun 04 2015 10:31 PM

Philippine President Benigno Aquino arrives to deliver a speech during the Philippines Investment Forum in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Yuya Shino, Reuters

PNoy woos Japanese investors at Tokyo forum

TOKYO — Expectedly, President Benigno Aquino painted a promising picture of the Philippine economy and spoke of a positive record of his administration in a bid to attract more Japanese businessmen to invest in the Philippines.

Speaking before the Philippine Investment Forum held at the Hotel New Otani, he described the current status of the country as a “far cry” from the country’s standing when his predecessor, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, left office.

He also compared how his administration fared better than previous ones in a number of areas including power and the number of awarded public-private partnership projects (PPP).

“While the Philippines of today is a far cry from the Philippines of five years ago, there remains much to be done. There are other paths we can pave towards even greater progress, which is precisely why we are here. Japanese companies have already made their mark on the Philippine electronics, shipbuilding, and automotive industries, among others—to the point where their work and their products are already irreplaceable in the lives of Filipinos. Today, I tell you: there is no better time to set up shop in the country,” Aquino said.

Aquino spoke of the country’s selling points, including its average 6.3 percent average GDP growth, credit ratings upgrade, and the quality of the Filipino workforce.

“Filipinos are young, trainable, and skilled; companies have entrusted them with producing quality products, from luxury bags, to electronics and automobiles, to the components of modern aircrafts,” Aquino said.

He also pointed out the Philippines’s acceptance into the European Union’s Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) that allows exporters to the EU to enjoy duty free access for certain products.

He also assured potential investors of efforts to ensure enough “diversified and reasonably-priced” power supply in the country, saying that 30 new power projects have gone online during his administration which added 1,097 megawatts to the power supply.

“Forty-eight more projects are set to go online between now and 2020, which will add a further 4,693.6 megawatts to our total dependable capacity of 15,665 megawatts. In sum, my administration’s contribution to our power supply will be at 5,790.6 megawatts. Compare this to the 21 power projects commissioned during my predecessor’s nine-and-a-half year term, which added only 1,667 megawatts,” Aquino said.

Aquino also cited that his administration has surpassed the number of PPP projects of the past three administrations, with nine solicited projects already awarded out.

Another one, he said, will be awarded “very, very soon, and 15 other projects in various stages of procurement and roll-out.”

He also enumerated efforts to “invest” and improve social services. Referring to the K-12 program, Aquino said that government is determined to meet the requirements of adding two years to basic education.

“Reforms in education have also been implemented, adding two years to our basic education cycle and bringing it to par with international standards. While these additional years will mean a vast increase in demand for textbooks, seats, and classrooms, through prudent fiscal management, the Philippine government has the wherewithal to meet these requirements,” Aquino said.

He also spoke of TESDA’s programs to provide students with the needed skills and boasted the high employment rate of TESDA graduates.

“Specifically for animation, for example, I am told that job placement has reached 85.9 percent,” he said.

'HIGH LEVEL OF INTEREST'

There is a “high level of interest” among Japanese investors to do business in the Philippines as organizers noted the high turnout of registrants who came to the forum.

About a thousand business executives came, according to Hiroyuki Ishige, chairman and CEO of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), who noted the “remarkable” performance of the Philippine economy and the improvement in governance under the Aquino administration.

Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel Lopez noted an “overflow of registrants” in what he described as one of the largest Philippine investment forums in Japan.

“I hear that both for both yesterday and today’s forum, there was an overflow of registrants. If not for the limited confines of both venues, we would have easily shared this forum with over a thousand participants today, undeniably a testimony of how far Philippine-Japan relations have come, and evidence of how in the annals of our long and recent history, Philippine economic relations have transformed under the good governance and economic reform policy of (President Aquino),” Lopez said.

Japan was the Philippines’ top trading partner in 2014 with total trade reaching 19.11 billion dollars last year. Japan was also the top source of IPA- or Investment Promotion Agency-approved investments last year with total investments worth 0.8 billion dollars in 2014.

The forum was organized by JETRO, the Japan-Philippine Economic Cooperation Committee, the ASEAN-Japan Center, the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Society of Japan with the help of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, among others.