Aquino to put PH in global focus in Davos debutBy Doris C. Dumlao, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ZURICH—Joining the World Economic Forum (WEF) for the first time, President Aquino will invite more investors and tourists to come to the Philippines to create more jobs and sustain the country’s economic momentum beyond his term, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said.
At a press briefing here on Wednesday before heading to the skiing resort of Davos for the WEF annual meetings, Carandang told visiting journalists that it was a good time for the President to go to the global forum because the Philippines was “in the global spotlight.”
Mr. Aquino is also debuting in Davos at a time when the Philippines is on the brink of getting a sovereign investment grade rating from major credit rating agencies. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings earlier indicated that the upgrade was possible.
“We’re hopeful, given the continuing pace of reforms, we can get upgraded in the near future,” Carandang said.
The Geneva-based WEF is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by gathering business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agenda.
Europe is one key region where the Philippines is receiving very little media coverage and Mr. Aquino’s trip to Davos for the WEF meetings is a mission to boost awareness on the country, Carandang said.
He said the trip was not about the government expecting to sign big investment deals but about telling what opportunities were available.
“He will be speaking on efforts to combat corruption and how that has contributed to economic growth and interest we’re seeing so far,” Carandang said.
These efforts were meant to sustain the country’s growth beyond Mr. Aquino’s term which ends in 2016. “Investments are important because we want to create jobs. We have been doing a lot of intervention to help the poor since Day 1, but to make this sustainable beyond 2016, we need to make sure that investors come in to create jobs. This is one of the big priorities of the President in coming to Davos,” he said.
German car manufacturing giant Volkswagen, for instance, was keen on re-establishing operations in the Philippines, having taken the first step to do so through a distribution partnership with the Ayala group, he said.
Volkswagen, which is headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany, announced last year the appointment of Ayala’s wholly owned subsidiary, Ayala Automotive Holdings Corp. as the Philippine distributor for Volkswagen passenger vehicles.
The expansion in Asia is part of Volkwagen’s vision to become the world’s No. 1 car manufacturer by 2018. It ranks second at present.
The President is set to meet with top officials of Volkswagen as part of the trip.
The visit is also part of the government’s campaign to entice more investors into participating in infrastructure-building.
“Our efforts to grow the economy are focused on tourism, infrastructure and agriculture. There are a lot of big infrastructure companies in Europe that may be interested in helping us develop our infrastructure,” Carandang said.
He said the prospects were bright given the backlog in Philippine infrastructure compared with Southeast Asian peers like Thailand and Malaysia.
Mr. Aquino is also expected to brief investors about the roadmap for the future.
“One of the things that people ask us is how we can sustain what we’re doing. We’re seeing efforts to make growth more inclusive, level the playing field,” Carandang said.
“I think the international community likes what we’re doing and interested to know what we want to do in the next few years and beyond,” he said.
The forum is also expected to help Philippine regulators assess the global economic environment they will have to navigate in the months ahead.
By meeting with people like International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, Carandang said “it’s going to be a chance for us to pick their brains.”
Mr. Aquino and a 63-member delegation were set to fly to Davos at 11 p.m. on Wednesday.
He will arrive in the Swiss ski resort just a day after the WEF released a report urging Russia, which has benefited from massive energy windfalls the past decade, to tackle corruption.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is among the four European leaders (the others are British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti) who will address the five-day meeting.
In Manila, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the President would not only participate in economic discussions with global business and political leaders in Davos, but would also deliver a keynote address on the fight against corruption at the WEF “Partnering Against Corruption Initiative” on Jan. 24.
“President Aquino’s participation in the WEF is an important opportunity for us to let the world know of our determination to institutionalize good governance in our country as one of the principal pillars of fiscal reform,” Ochoa said in a Palace statement.
The executive secretary said Mr. Aquino “will share the successes of his administration’s campaign against corruption, which served as a springboard for the significant improvement in our country’s economy.”
Among the events that Mr. Aquino will be attending in Davos is the informal gathering of world economic leaders which will pave the way for a discussion of global economic issues with other world leaders, according to deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Malacañang has allotted P49 million for the President’s participation in WEF as well as expenses of the presidential delegation.
Mr. Aquino was accompanied by the members of the economic cluster of his Cabinet: Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Cabinet Secretary to the President Jose Rene Almendras and Carandang are also joining the President.
The estimated cost of the President’s participation to the annual gathering of world business and political managers, which takes place from Jan. 23 to 27, covers the delegation’s chartered flight to Switzerland, accommodation, transportation, food, and equipment and telecommunications requirements.
From Davos, the President will have a brief stop in Zurich for a meeting with the Filipino community before returning to Manila.