US firms keen on 'Build, Build, Build,' says Filipino envoy

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 08 2019 12:25 PM

WASHINGTON DC -- American companies are looking at participating in President Rodrigo Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" program, underscoring the level of confidence in his economic team, a Filipino diplomat said.

There is a "very high level of confidence" among US businesses in the Philippine economy, said Jose Victor Chan-Gonzaga, Minister of Economy Affairs of the Philippine Embassy.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) identified constitutional restrictions to foreign ownership, restrictive regulations on building permits and foreign investment approvals, in addition to rising domestic interest rates, as disincentives to private sector borrowings and new foreign investment growth.

The CSIS said the quality of infrastructure, including poor transport networks, unreliable energy sources and spotty internet access "hinders economic productivity and social mobility." 

"The issue of transparency in government processes, regulations that are usually cumbersome. There might be medium-term goals that the Philippines has to undertake. Infrastructure development doesn’t happen overnight," CSIS Senior Fellow Romina Bandura told reporters.

Philippine agriculture attaché to the US Josyline Javelosa said Manila was pushing for greater access for exports to the US, the Philippines' biggest market for food and agricultural products. 

The Philippines has pending requests with the US Department of Agriculture to export okra, for a pre-inspection waiver for mangoes, and shipment for all ports for pineapple. The Philippines earlier secured approvals for banana, mangoes, and fresh young coconut.

Javelosa said US company Green Bison was looking at the production of biomass fuel pellets from banana leaves, sugar cane bagasse and other fibers in the Philippines and the production of advanced bio-composites structural panels out of coconut shell, coconut fiber and potentially industrial hemp.

One company has expressed interest in putting up over 20 refineries to produce coco biodiesel.

As part of its export promotion, the embassy has been conducting government to government outreach, supporting Philippine participation in food trade shows in the US and promoting Philippine cuisine and identify strategic markets.