Aquino tells Japanese investors: Now’s the time to invest in PH
TOKYO – Facing a room full of potential investors, President Aquino on Thursday encouraged Japanese businessmen to choose the Philippines, citing the country’s improved business climate, strong economy and the robust Filipino workforce.
In a speech before the Philippine Investment Forum, Mr. Aquino called on Japanese investors to further boost business ties with the Philippines, citing the country’s consistent economic growth and steady investment flow from Japan.
“There are other paths we can pave towards even greater progress, which is precisely why we are here,” Mr. Aquino told some 1,000 businessmen who turned up for the forum.
“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,” he added.
Already, Japanese investors account for the biggest chunk of locators in Philippine economic zones at 29.71 percent, according to Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director General Lilia de Lima in separate remarks.
“The Philippines as an investment destination is more attractive today than at any other point in our history. We can further deepen, or forge partnerships in which all parties benefit. Our government’s track record speaks for itself, as well as our sustained commitment to moving this forward,” Mr. Aquino said.
In particular, the President broached opportunities in investing in Philippine infrastructure projects, saying government has been keen to seek more public-private partnerships to build critical transport infrastructure such as air and sea ports, and power facilities.
Mr. Aquino recognized Japan’s “role in securing our economic success,” being among the Philippines’ leading trading partners year after year. Japan was the Philippines’ top trading partner in 2014, with a total bilateral trade volume of $19.1 billion.
He cited the Philippines’ economic growth during his presidency, the trajectory maintained by foreign direct investments. This reached a record high in 2014 at $6.2 billion, said the President.
The country’s economic growth has averaged 6.3 percent over the last five years, “making us one of the fastest growing nations in the world,” said Mr. Aquino.
“This change has been amplified by Japan’s trust and confidence; allow me to once again express our deep appreciation to Japan for staying the course, for even with the economic difficulties prevalent in many parts of the globe, you have consistently been among the top sources of approved investments into the Philippines,” President Aquino said.
“The numbers make it clear that many of you have already made a decision to bet on the Philippines. Your confidence has played a significant role in securing the economic success we are experiencing today — success that we share with you,” he said.
In remarks at the forum, Hiroyuke Ishige, chair and CEO of the Japan External Trade Organization, conveyed his group’s positive view of the Philippines’ overall development, saying the country “is now overcoming its illness.”
Ishige also called the Aquino administration as “the most stable government among past Philippine administrations.” He said Jetro was planning to send a trade mission to the Philippines later this year.
In his speech, Mr. Aquino also cited how the Philippines has adopted the Japanese philosophy of kaizen, or the aspiration for “continuous improvement or change for the better.”
“Though my administration may not necessarily have been familiar with the term at first, we have been practicing our own version of kaizen these past four years and eleven months. Among our goals was for our country to become a strong and competitive player in the global economy,” he said.
He cited the strength of the Filipino workforce, once again underlining the country’s young, hardworking and easily trainable workers. The President said government continued to invest more in its people, addressing education backlogs and providing training opportunities so they could land jobs.
“We continue to believe that the most important sector — the most important resource — we can invest in is the Filipino people. My countrymen are the reason for our continued success, which is why we have maximized all our resources in empowering them to become direct participants in economic growth,” said Mr. Aquino.
He said his administration has already abandoned the “trickle-down” approach and has instead focused on building the capacity of Filipinos.
“We are working to capacitate each and every Filipino to take part in growing the economy, and contribute to the success of your businesses and of our country. Those of you who have already established a corporate presence in the Philippines can attest to the caliber of the Filipino worker—to the fact that kaizen seems to be inherent to my countrymen, and that they will do everything in their power to ensure you succeed,” he said.
At the forum, businessmen participated in two cluster meetings: one on equipment, electronics and medical devices, and the other on infrastructure.
The President brought along his delegation of Cabinet officials to the forum, including his top trade and economic officials.
Courting Japanese investors made up for much of the President’s mission in his first state visit to Japan, possibly his last trip here before stepping down in 2016.
Just shortly after his arrival Tuesday afternoon, President Aquino went straight to meetings with top Japanese businessmen, security their commitment to further boost their existing investments in the Philippines.
Among firms that took part in Thursday’s investment forum were electronics firms Brother Industries Ltd., Canon, Inc., Funai Electric Co., Ltd., NEC and Uzushio Electric Co. Ltd, medical technology firms Arkray, Inc., Biotech Japan Corp., JMS Co., Terumo Corp and Tokai Medical Products, holding firms Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Dole International Holdings, Marubeni Corporation, Mitsui & Co., Ltd., Mizuho Financial Group, Sojitz Corporation, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., Toyota-Tsusho Corporation, shipbuilding firm Tsuneishi.
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