Aquino assures investors: No backroom deals

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2010 12:43 PM | Updated as of Nov 19 2010 09:18 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The darkness is over, and it's daylight in the Philippines.

That is, in essence, the new message that President Aquino is telling potential investors who are attending the public-private partnership or PPP conference called Infrastructure Philippines 2010 here at the Manila Marriott Hotel.

It is what the President called a "daylight summit," an opportunity for the government to present infrastructure and transportation projects for possible private-public partnerships and their planned timelines for bidding out these projects.

Aquino assures investors: No backroom deals 1

The president assured investors that doing business in the Philippines under his term would be different from doing business here before. He said transactions will be clear, honest and transparent, and will not be done in the dark, so to speak, and not marked by backroom deals.

The president said he needs the help of investors especially since the government has to prioritize the use of its limited funds, mainly allocated for pro-poor or poverty reduction programs.

Aquino said he is aware of the concerns of investors who, he said, have been apprehensive about investor rules here not being fair, changing, or not applicable to all. Aquino said he has taken steps to correct these.

The president made an interesting metaphor: he said the government cannot use its left hand to shake hands with businessmen while using its right hand to pick their pockets, sending signals to investors of the government's sincerity to get rid of corruption in its dealings with the business sector. 

The President spelled out measures that the government will undertake to minimize risks for investors, particularly for solicited projects. He said the government will protect investors from regulatory risk.

For example, in infrastructure, the government can be relied on to compensate for contractually-agreed user fees or taxes and rate adjustments in case the regulators, the courts, or Congress stops the collection of these user fees.

The president said what protection is necessary will be determined for every project that will be bidded out.

Commercial or market risk will be borne by the investors.

The President also made a pitch for its effort to improve tourist arrivals in the Philippines, saying the government will fully implement Executive Order 219 signed during the Ramos administration, liberalizing the aviation sector, especially international aviation. The government will expand airports and revive tourist police.

The economic team of President Aquino was in full force to present what projects are up for bidding, among them, the expansion of the Metro Rail Transit (MR) network and upgrading of roads.

Finance Asia is organizing the conference.

Around 400 investors are attending the two-day conference, the number evenly split between domestic and foreign investors.

But while the President was making his pitch to businessmen, a group of protesters from Bayan Muna managed to stage a lighting rally in front of the venue, carrying placards saying "The Philippines is not for sale."

Policemen pushed the protesters away, but not before a brief verbal tussle, until the protesters self-dispersed.


Investors' protection