Aggressive plan to offer PH as investment hub sought

A House leader on Friday said the government should be more aggressive in offering the Philippines as an alternative investment destination for companies doing business in China in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The government should take a more aggressive approach to convince firms seeking to move out of China that the Philippines is a good alternative for them given our unique competitive advantage, highly-skilled manpower and improved ease of doing business,” House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera pointed out.

Herrera said the Philippines should seize the opportunity as the United States (US) and Europe seek to reduce reliance on China as a manufacturing base in the aftermath of the pandemic and the resultant supply disruption.

Calls for China exit mounted as the Japanese government recently decided to provide subsidies to businesses that move production back to Japan, covering up to two-thirds of relocation cost—a move that was fully supported by the U.S. government.

She said it was never too late to convince some of the companies leaving China to consider the Philippines as a manufacturing alternative.

“This is a golden opportunity for the Philippines to up its game in securing more foreign direct investment projects to shore up the economy battered by a two-month community quarantine to contain the spread of COVID-19,” said Herrera. Herrera said the government may look into the eastern portion of Bulacan province as a possible site for future manufacturing facilities.

“The eastern portion of Bulacan is an example of its viability where there are vast lands available for development into an industrial city of more or less 40,000 hectares. It has its own source of power and water, near the power grid, and has existing access roads,” Herrera said.

“An executive order or a presidential proclamation can be put in place for opportunities like this,” she added.

The party-list lawmaker said the Philippines badly needs to attract foreign direct investments, especially those that would generate mass employment.

“The need to create mass employment is now even more urgent after the COVID-19 crisis left at least 2.5 million Filipinos jobless,” she stressed.

Herrera said she believes the government has made significant progress in addressing critical issues that have hampered the country’s investment climate and the competitiveness of local firms, particularly that of micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs.

She said the Philippines had become more attractive to investors following the enactment in 2018 of the Ease of Doing Business Act, a landmark legislation that seeks to make the process of putting up and running a business in the country easier and more efficient.

To lure more foreign investors, Herrera said the country—through the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA)—would need to offer them more attractive incentives.

“We have to make sure we are competitive and allow PEZA and the executive department to offer concessions if need be,” Herrera said. “They have to be flexible enough that when attracting companies they can go on a trade mission, and offer land, infrastructure and leeway on taxes and fees.”

In terms of human resources, she said the talent and skills of Filipino workers are the greatest advantages of investing in the Philippines. “The quality of our workforce is truly unquestionable,” Herrera said.