The Philippine story: ‘Sick man of Asia’ now transforming, revitalized, dynamic

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DEBUT IN DAVOS President Aquino keynotes the World Economic Forum (WEF) activity, “Partnering Against Corruption Initiative-Private Reception,” in Davos, Switzerland, where he said transparency and a level playing field remain his administration’s priorities. It is Mr. Aquino’s first time at the WEF. Malacañang Photo Bureau

DAVOS—President Benigno Aquino III has pitched to the international investor community the Philippine story of transformation from being a “sick man of Asia” into one dynamic country bucking a global economic downturn.

“What we offer you today is a Philippines where change has set in. That, perhaps, is the single most compelling reason to come in and invest in our country,” Aquino said in a roundtable meeting with global business executives at the World Economic Forum on Friday.

The President invited investors to participate in three rapidly growing sectors in the country—agriculture, tourism and infrastructure.

“Those who have already bet on the Philippines have not been disappointed; they have seen the sincerity of our commitment to restoring integrity and leveling the playing field.

“This is a commitment we intend to keep with all who want to conduct honest, fair business in the Philippines,” he said in the business forum organized by Credit Suisse.

Mr. Aquino told prospective investors he couldn’t promise a completely risk-free environment, noting that any worthwhile endeavor was not without its risks.

Nevertheless, he said the “sick man of Asia is now revitalized, more dynamic than it ever was in its history, marching toward equitable progress.”

Contrasting his administration from that of his predecessor’s, when he said decisions were based on political factors—mainly, on the desire to stay in power—he said the government was now earnestly refocusing efforts toward leveling the playing field, minimizing regulatory risks and investing in people.

He said the government was empowering the Filipino through health, education and conditional cash transfer programs that would aid their transition from being below subsistence living toward gainful employment.

“We already know that, given the right environment, the Filipino is able to thrive; how many of you have ridden cruise ships or stayed in hotels manned by Filipinos? How many have been awed by the creativity, loyalty and professionalism of our workers in the business process outsourcing industry?”

PH full of optimism

“In a world increasingly dominated by uncertainty and pessimism, is it not refreshing to witness a country full of optimism, experiencing positive, meaningful change and inviting everyone in to ride its momentum?”

The President again referred to his administration’s thrust of eliminating corruption as a means to drastically reduce poverty and open opportunities for both the Filipino people and business, thereby allowing the Philippines to achieve inclusive growth.

On efforts to level the playing field, the President said that when contracts are no longer awarded arbitrarily, and when the rule of law applies to all, a sense of justice and fairness naturally takes over. “Among investors, in particular, this instils confidence: That the Philippines is worth the price of admission,” he said.

In the first three quarters of 2012, the domestic economy has grown by an average of 6.5 percent, much faster than the 4.9-percent trend growth during the nine-year Macapagal-Arroyo administration.  The stock market has trebled in the last four years to record highs.

“These are truly exciting times for our country. We are realizing the long-untapped potential of our country and we are here to invite you to join us,” he said.

3 priority areas

On the priority areas for investment, Mr. Aquino said tourism and agriculture were crucial because they play into the key strengths of our country—an abundance of natural resources—and because they tend to spur growth all over the archipelago, not merely in urbanized areas.

Since he came into office, he said the government had been working towards rice self-sufficiency by going back to the basics and helping our farmers through improved irrigation systems and a genuine certified seeds program.

“As we focus on the basic needs of our farmers, we have not lost sight of the value of innovation, and of moving up the value chain,” Aquino said.

“For example, coco coir and coco water used to be considered as waste. Today, they are the reasons behind the revitalization of our coconut industry,” he said.

In 2009, Aquino said the Philippines exported a total of 483,862 liters of cocowater.

By 2011, this has increased exponentially to more than 16.7 million liters of cocowater.

“Coco coir fiber, transformed into geotextile materials, has among others, been found effective in erosion control,” he said.

The Department of Publics Works and Highways (DPWH) is already using this technology in their projects, and investments into the coco coir industry reached P293.75 million pesos or around $7.34 million in 2012.

On tourism, the President mentioned the Department of Tourism’s “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign and noted favorable tourism reviews from publications like Conde Nast Traveller, the New York Times, and Travel + Leisure Magazine.

In 2012, he said there were 4.3 million tourists that visited the country, a little short of the 4.6 million target which he said was a consequence of some political tension in the region, referring to the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

“In spite of this, though, China’s Oriental Morning Post named my country the ‘Best Tourist Destination’ in its annual World Travel – Special Trips awards, and the Shanghai Morning Post identified the Philippines as the “Most Romantic Destination” in the world—an award surely inspired by the magnificent sunsets over our numerous white sand beaches, or the pristine, secluded coves dotting our many islands,” he said.

The hotels that have been sprouting up around the Philippines in the past two years are proof positive of the tourism boom, Aquino said, noting that an additional 1,599 rooms have been built in Boracay. “So, whether you want to come to the Philippines for business or for leisure, we will gladly accommodate you,” he said.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is also seen as a prority in attracting investments.  The President acknowledged that this was the key to further growth and development in tourism and agriculture, among other sectors.

“For example, a lack of paved roads or even adequate transportation hubs redounds to longer traveling time: imagine how much the quality of produce will suffer in two to three days of road travel, or even the difficulty that tourists will have in reaching the more far-flung parts of my country,” he said.

Aquino cited the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report which showed that the Philippines was lagging behind Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of quality infrastructure, including the quality of roads. “This presents an opportunity, because we are committed to closing this gap and increasing our competitiveness,” he said.

Last year, Aquino said disbursements for infrastructure reached $4.9 billion and another $5.7 billion is allotted for this in 2013.

“Part of this allotment will go to the complete paving of our national road network by 2016. Since 2010, our DPWH has already completed 28 percent, or 2,006 kilometers, of the 7,256 kilometers of national arterial and secondary roads that needed paving,” he said.

 

National connectivity

The President added that the country was seeking to boost connectivity all around our country through the following: train systems in Metro Manila; expressways that cut across the National Capital Region and reduce travel time drastically; the construction improvement of both domestic and international airports, as well as the exploration of a new nautical highway that could cut travel time between Luzon to Mindanao, from three days to 15 hours.

“We are exploring opportunities for the private sector to join us in these endeavors, and we hope that you will consider partnering with us in the future, towards our mutual benefit,” Aquino said.

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  • rodben

    Siguro ngayon ang sinasabi ni Noy2 na  SICK MAN OF ASIA ang Pinas dahil dumarami na ang mga OFW sa kalapit bansa nating ASIA ibig sabihin tinutulongan ang mga Pinoy workers ngayon ng ibang bansa sa ASIA para magkatrabaho.

  • goavan

    si presidente ang galing siraan ang kanyang bansa…what kind of a president is this?  ang ginagawa niya ay siraan ng siraan ang pangalan ng bansa tuwing meron foriegn trip kasi akala success na siya kahit walang ginagawa.  tingan mo ang FDI na nakuha ng Pinas ay barya lamang kompara sa ibang bansa sa asean…kais nga ala naman mga investors kuno na naniwala sa kanya…kong meron yan ay dahil sa private initiatives hindi gov’t initiatives

  • AngMandarambong

    The Philippines is not the poorest country in Asia. Several countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, Afghanistan, etc. have a lower per capita income, but our leaders and media keep on describing the country as the “Sick Man of Asia”. No wonder foreigners have an unfavorable view or take the gloomiest possible view whenever the country is mentioned.

  • josefe38

    ABNOY, SICK MIND OF ASIA!!!!!!!!

  • EOJ

    I support presidnet Aquino. I want him to succeed.

    • tskpinas

      I support the Philippines and it’s people to succeed, who care’s about the president?

  • MrRead

    This is the View from HK…. Philippines as dangerous as Syria. 
     Why Filipinos go to HK is beyond me. The Chinese are all the same. Evil.
    The Philippines remains as dangerous a country to visit as war-torn Syria, according to the Hong Kong government.More than two-and-a-half years after the Manila hostage crisis, security chiefs still refuse to lift the black travel alert.And that’s despite new figures showing that more Hong Kong and mainland tourists are visiting the Philippines than ever before.Seven Hong Kong tourists and their guide were shot dead when a sacked Manila police officer hijacked their tour bus in the city’s Rizal Park in August 2010.Since then the Philippines has had a black alert against it under the Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) system, which means Hong Kong tourists face a severe threat in the country and should avoid travelling there.The only other country for which there is a black alert is Syria, where civil war has left at least 60,000 people dead, reducing villages, towns and cities to rubble and creating a massive wave of refugees.But according to the Philippines Department of Tourism, Hong Kong is now the ninth-highest source of visitors to the country. Figures released last week showed the number of arrivals from Hong Kong rose 2.78 per cent from 2011 to 118,666.Arrivals from the mainland rose 5.87 per cent year on year to 250,883.And even with a new chief executive and administration in place in Hong Kong, there are still no plans for the Philippines travel status to be changed.A Security Bureau spokesman confirmed that no amendment would be made, although the situation would be reviewed regularly.”The Incident Investigation and Review Committee of the Philippines are reported to have reviewed the mechanism and procedures for handling emergency incidents,” he said.”We hope that the relevant report will lead to concrete measures to enhance the crisis management mechanism, improve the safety of travellers and avoid a recurrence of such an incident in the Philippines.”Tourism sector lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun believes the government’s stance has political overtones. He said the government is continuing to punish the Philippines for one tragic, but isolated, incident.”If the government is waiting for the Philippines to restructure their internal security before downgrading the travel warning, it will be level black for ever,” he said.The OTA system aims to help people better understand the risk or threat to personal safety in travelling to 85 countries – those that are the most popular travel destinations for Hong Kong residents.There are three alert levels. After black there is red, which denotes a significant threat, meaning travellers should adjust their travel plans and avoid non-essential travel.Then there is amber, which indicates signs of a threat in a country, meaning travellers should monitor the situation and exercise caution.

  • Ros Feliciano

     

     

    Everyone of
    course can notice the surge of what is favorably happening in our country in
    terms of many good things that in comparison, all the opposite we could notice
    in the past. Okay we welcome this development; but how about making the poor
    people feel this unprecedented development? Can any of our lawmakers think of
    any bill to be introduced in the hall of congress and onward to the Senate hall
    to uplift the living condition of our poor people who make the streets as their
    dwelling places? What about requiring those untouchable who are exempted from
    paying taxes to pay taxes? As it appears these are the people who are against
    going after corrupt officials who are responsible to make the country known in
    the whole world as our country responsible to breed corruptions? Some of these
    people are openly asking very expensive birthday gifts instead of requiring
    contribution for those who could hardly eat three times a day.  These are group of people who are giving moral
    supports to those who were at the helm of guiding the destiny of the nation before
    this incumbent administration.

  • kuz_n_efek

    Corruption is the no.1 issue in every ‘sick’ Country in the world. Poverty is always & forever be the result of this evildoing act. Therefore, if the President is serious about alleviating poverty in PH, he should be firm in his approach in fighting against Corruption. In doing so, other priorities he’s been mentioning, viz., Agriculture, Infrastructure & Tourism will follow after. I’m still optimistic that our current Government & the succeeding ones can make difference for a much better governance for our Nation. Keep going Philippines!
     

  • kawawang_bansa

    transparency….but he won’t certify the foi bill as urgent…the foi was one of his promises before

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