The availability of a vaccine, the government’s firm commitment to fiscal reforms and a wider opening of the economy including in the tourism sector are on top of the wishlist of foreign investors, according to the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP).
In an interview, ECCP president Nabil Francis said while recent measures towards the full operation of businesses were highly appreciated, the level of uncertainty still remains among the 800 plus members of the ECCP.
“There remains a degree of uncertainty among the European-Philippine business community as travel bans, developments on priority legislations mainly the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) and the absence of a vaccine affect key business and investment decisions,” Francis, also Republic Cement CEO, told the Daily Tribune.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had advocated the near full opening of the business sector, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) amid the ongoing contagion to regain the level of confidence among enterprisers.
DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez had indicated months of contending with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) made the public completely aware of the health hazards from the pandemic and thus makes it possible to co-exist with COVID-19 despite reduced restrictions.
Francis reminded businesses that strict health protocols should always be observed.
“We encourage and welcome every step towards further reopening of the economy coupled with decisive health and safety measures We also welcome the gradual re-opening of the tourism sector in some areas, and hope other local government units (LGU) will follow suit but with proper health and safety guidelines,” Francis said.
Pick up in spendings seen
The ECCP president averred during the community quarantine period, cash flow remains a big challenge as consumers have no motivation to spend.
“In a recent study conducted by the ECCP, among the top challenges identified by the respondents was ‘cash flow,’ ranking third after ‘travel restrictions’ and ‘reduced product/service demand’,” Francis noted.
According to Francis, the ECCP holds high hopes that spending will spike in the December holidays.
“While there is still a lot of uncertainty, we expect spending to pick up towards Christmas. Hopefully, this will reflect positively in many sectors that are currently allowed to operate.
In his remarks to close the recent Philippine Business Conference (PBC), President Rodrigo Duterte encouraged executives to be innovative and to adopt digitalization to help businesses quickly recover from the effects of the government responses to the pandemic.
The EECP president said his group believes that innovation has been instrumental for most businesses before the health crisis but has become even more essential now.
“The coronavirus pandemic has prompted most European businesses in the Philippines to reconfigure their operations towards digitization and automation. For example, some companies have institutionalized flexible work arrangements to minimize health risks and to reduce costs,” Francis emphasized.
Maximum online presence
As proof, most retailers have maximized online platforms to hurdle challenges posed by the contagion.
“We see a lot of progress in this area as well as collaboration among ECCP members to ensure continuity of business,” the European businesses leader noted.
He maintained that locally-based European businesses still need support in terms of programs to aid them towards recovery which is essential to cut short the current recession.
“Moving forward, we call on the government to proactively enact measures that will support a culture of innovation as a means to accelerate economic growth and development,” said Francis.
DTI emphasized that businesses should embrace innovation, as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in gaining more opportunities and to create more inclusive economic growth and create a “better normal” in a post COVID-19 future, “realizing President Duterte’s dream of giving all Filipinos a better quality of life.”