MANILA, Philippines – Strike while the iron is hot.
President Benigno Aquino III told foreign and local businessmen on Monday that now is an opportune time to invest in the country.
With a large number of Filipinos reaching working age in 2015, and the Philippine economy continuing to grow, reforms will further result in uninterrupted growth, he told around 600 business leaders and investors at the Philippines Investment Forum at the Solaire Resort & Casino in Manila.
“On average, hitting such a ‘sweet spot’ has led to a ten-year period of 7.3 percent yearly growth. So one can only imagine the possibilities for us, considering our workers are renowned for their resilience, creativity, and loyalty,” he said.
Aquino explained that it is vital to match the “demographic sweet spot” with substantial changes in the system such as creating a conducive business environment.
“We must cement the reforms we have made, and make certain that we extend our aim of uninterrupted growth—from years, to decades, and hopefully, even to generation,” he said.
He said among the things the administration is looking into is the amendment of the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) Law. He also boasted of the increase in the budgets of the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
“If you invest in the Philippines, human capital will be the least of your worries,” Aquino told the audience as he assured them of a properly equipped Philippine labor force.
At one point, the President told the investors to speak with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, subtly mentioning that he was hailed Finance Minister of the Year in 2012.
“Going beyond expectations has become so common in our administration that I sometimes joke that some of my Cabinet members are becoming very erratic: they keep giving me targets, but they almost always end up exceeding them. So I guess they are hedging their promises,” Aquino said in jest.
During the speech, the President boasted of the government’s achievements, including the credit rating upgrades given by Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s.
He also claimed that the administration had succeeded in its plan to rehabilitate the manufacturing sector.
“In 2013, the manufacturing sector grew by 10.5 percent, and was one of the main factors in building on our economic momentum,” he said.
Aquino reiterated that despite the disasters that befell the country in 2012, the Philippines posted one of the fastest growth rates in Asia at 7.2 percent.
He devoted a large part of the speech on the reconstruction efforts in areas hit by the various calamities last year, encouraging the investors to take part in the rehabilitation.
Aquino’s appearance at the Philippine Investment Forum came a day after Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan told media that while the economy continues to grow, the government still has to address underemployment and poverty.
A week ago, Aquino presided over a full Cabinet meeting that tackled ways to push inclusive growth. It was held after a Social Weather Stations survey showed increasing unemployment in the country.