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Confidence vote cast

Kristina Maralit

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TOKYO – President Rodrigo Duterte considers the queueing of Japanese investors to pledge investments to the country as a vote of confidence, which he is repaying with a promise to create a competitive and corruption-free business environment.

He urged more Japanese businesses to take part in the Philippines’ “game-changing” “Build, Build, Build” program.

Speaking at a forum attended by Filipino and Japanese business delegates at the Imperial Hotel, the President said his administration’s ambitious thrust towards infrastructure is geared towards establishing inclusive and innovative industries, which will help transform the country’s economy.

He expressed elation over the “strong intention” of Japanese firms to invest and expand their local operations that clearly shows their belief in the country’s “bright economic prospect.”

“Over the years, Japan has been a major source of foreign direct investments and is a key trading partner of the Philippines, the second largest, in fact, in 2018,” the Chief Executive said in his speech.

He went on to say how, in the next few years, he anticipates increased trade and investment flows because of the strong momentum generated by decades of deep economic cooperation.

Barriers go down

Mr. Duterte asserted this will be sustained by both countries’ natural economic complementarities and accelerated by current efforts of both governments to lower barriers.

He also noted how Japan is the only country in Asia, and anywhere else in the world, the Philippines has forged a bilateral foreign trade agreement with via the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement signed in 2006.

Said pact is now being reviewed and the government is hoping to insert upgrades to achieve a higher level of preferential agreement that is mutually beneficial for both sides.

One sector the Philippines is aiming to prioritize in relation to the said accord, as pointed out by Mr. Duterte, is agriculture.

The government is seeking to have economic market access for Philippine agricultural products, such as bananas, mangoes and pineapples, as well as service suppliers in the construction of projects.

Another key area is the tweaking of the current framework involving the deployment of skilled Filipino workers to Japan, including nurses and other health care workers.

Personal guarantee

To further entice Japanese businesses to invest in the Philippines, the President gave his personal assurance that they will be greeted by a local economy that is robust, fair, stable, and with a highly qualified labor force.

“With our sound macro-economic policies and (ongoing) reforms, we guarantee a competitive and corruption-free — and I repeat — we guarantee a competitive and corruption-free business climate, and a highly-skilled and fast-learning workforce,” Mr. Duterte said, which was met with loud applause.

According to him, the Philippines is a “natural choice” for Japanese firms looking for a manufacturing base in Southeast Asia and aiming to tap markets for their exports within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, European Union and the Americas, as they have preferential tariff agreements with the Philippines.

Ideal KPO base

The Philippines is also an ideal base for high-value Knowledge Process Outsourcing ventures to support the global operations of Japanese companies.

Add to that the country’s upgraded credit rating from Standard and Poor’s Global, the highest rating in its history and just a notch below the A grade, and there is no doubt that investing in the Philippines brings such positive outlook.

“Given all these, your investments are assured of protection and gains. I guarantee that,” stressed the President.

He reiterated his unceasing effort in ridding the government of graft and corruption and vowed that his administration remains fully committed in maintaining a “stable and predictable environment for robust business partnerships between the Philippines and Japan.”

“As a matter of fact, I place my honor in what we promised to our partners, especially the Japanese and the Japanese people. More than ‘Build, Build, Build,’ let us work together to ‘Grow, Grow, Grow’ our economies,” the President expressed.

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