An umbrella organization of local businessmen is urging the government to redouble its efforts to take advantage of the Philippines’ recent credit-rating upgrade to improve the country’s weak infrastructure.
At the same time, the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) said the Aquino administration could use the positive sentiment created by the investment grade awarded by Fitch Ratings to draw more foreign direct investments into the country.
In a statement, FPI president Jesus Arranza warned that long-term investors might hesitate to put their funds here “unless [the government] takes decisive steps in putting its infrastructure buildup on the fast track and do away with conflicting policies.”
In particular, Arranza noted the frequent barriers to business caused by “the perceived abuses in the use of the Writ of Kalikasan, a legal remedy under Rule 7 of the Rules of Procedures for Environmental Cases, which provides for the protection of one’s right to ‘a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.’”
According to the FPI chief, one recent casualty of what he described as an “underhanded legal tactic” was the 600-MW coal-fired power plant at the Subic Freeport. The project was put on hold by the Court of Appeals, which issued a Writ of Kalikasan despite its proponents using what it claimed is “environment-friendly technology” as well as its ability to create “thousands” of local jobs over the next three decades.
Although FPI supported legal intervention in pursuit of environmental protection, Arranza said “this should not serve as a blanket authority to use legitimate weapons like the Writ of Kalikasan to scuttle projects that are actually environment- and job-friendly.”
“Big, long-term investments must not be held hostage by cases arising from misguided or unfounded environmental fears,” he said, noting that such projects could help the Aquino administration achieve its goal of lasting and inclusive growth for the country.
The putting up of power plants—of which the coal-fired kind takes the least amount of time—is especially critical given the country’s rapid economic growth and the ongoing power crisis in Mindanao and some parts of the Visayas.
In addition—citing statistics from the DOE’s Power Development Plan for 2009-2030—the FPI chairman said the government-projected annual energy demand increase of 4.8 percent for Luzon alone meant the island would need an additional capacity of 10,500 MW over the next two decades.
Arranza said the government should also modernize the country’s transport system to speed up travel and to remedy the current situation where it was cheaper to import or transport goods from overseas than it was to ship the same products from Mindanao to Manila.
The FPI chief cited the need to fast-track public-private partnership projects, including building new airports, extending highways and toll ways and modernizing tourism, health and education facilities.
“We at FPI believe that the government must capitalize on our newfound investment-grade status to attract more private investments by taking bold steps to reduce the cost of doing business and level the playing field,” he said.