Trade chief says business booming under Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao and the political environment have not dampened the country’s business prospects, with foreign direct investments and interest in the country continuing to increase, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Tuesday.
Foreign direct investments registered an 11-percent jump to $1 billion in the first two months of the year, and more foreign business delegations have been visiting the country, Lopez said in a Palace press briefing where he provided a “snapshot” of the Duterte administration’s first year.
Even the recent martial law declaration, prompted by attacks from extremist groups allied with Islamic State, has not driven investors away though tourism has suffered, Lopez said.
“On the business [side], we are not affected because the businessmen, they really look into the longer term potential of a country and the fundamentals,” he said.
“As we say, we are on a breakout, investments up, exports up, the consumer base is getting bigger, we have a young consumer [base], and now getting more employed,” he added.
Local traders in Mindanao have not complained about the martial law declaration either, Lopez said, based on his recent visits to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities.
Distributors and those with depots say they like martial law, and it’s business as usual for areas outside Marawi.
“They feel more secure and safer,” he said.
While checkpoints cause some delay, the traders say they could live with that, he added.
Lopez also described the country as “stable” politically, save for the terrorism threat that is present in most countries anyway.
“Politically, minus the terroristic acts which is present everywhere anyway, even in a developed country, we’re a stable country and secured and it’s business as usual,” he said.
The 35-percent decline in information technology-business process management investments registered under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, he said, was due to processing taking some time because the Peza board was newly constituted.
But total investment numbers remain positive, he said. Business and consumer confidence also remain high, he added.
Markets for PH
Lopez said President Duterte’s move of being “friends to all and enemy to no one” has opened a lot of markets for the Philippines, with Chinese, Russian, Canadian and Japanese businessmen among those thinking of setting up shop here.
Mr. Duterte made 21 trips to 17 countries in his first year of office alone.
But Mr. Duterte has distanced the Philippines from longtime ally the United States and the European Union when he lashed out at them for criticizing his bloody war on drugs.
Recently, the Philippines rejected $280 million in grants from the European Union that supposedly came with conditions that would allow it to meddle in the country’s affairs.
Lopez also said the ease of doing business had improved, with the period for getting business permits and licenses now reduced to two to three days, from 10 days.
This was accomplished through simplification of forms and the reduction of required signatories. The process is expected to be shorter once the system becomes automated, he added.