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Foreign investors still keen on PH

Impact of money laundering case seen minimal
/ 12:11 AM April 05, 2016

BUSINESS and accounting guru Washington Sycip Monday said the money laundering case that has now become a global spectacle has not curbed foreign investors’ appetite on the Philippines.

He noted that a bancassurance partnership between Germany’s biggest insurance firm Allianz and the 20-percent buy-in of Japanese banking giant Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in Security Bank were still consummated despite the controversy on the entry of dirty money to the banking system that ended up in the local casinos.

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“That clearly shows foreign investments have not been affected,” Sycip said.

Sycip added that he had great respect for the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr.

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“It’s not only for what he has done in the Philippines but compared to any other central bank governor, he has done a fantastic job,” he said.

Asked whether he would support calls to ease the bank secrecy law to better combat money laundering, Sycip said he would advocate for “whatever Tetangco feels is good for the country because he has done so well for us now.”

Sycip said that he was also hoping that the Filipino nation would elect an “honest” president this May in order to continue attracting foreign investments.

Sycip, who is turning 95 this year and still advises many of the country’s biggest corporations long after retiring from local accounting giant SGV that he co-founded, hasn’t picked any presidential candidate to support.

The SGV founder said he already knew Sen. Grace Poe and her father Fernando Poe Jr., who had consulted him when he ran for president two elections ago. Sycip said he also knew Mar Roxas very well. He noted that he would like to meet Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to discuss his advocacy and education agenda.

“I’d like to meet Duterte. I recently got an inquiry from Duterte through his intermediary,” he said.

As a personal advocacy, Sycip has set aside all the funds he could afford—totalling $1 million to date—to help educate poor people, working with the likes of Synergeia Foundation and the microfinance group Card Inc. led by Jaime Aristotle Alip.

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Typically, for business service firms that expand outside of Manila end up having big operations in Cebu. But in the case of SGV, he said SGV now had a bigger office in Davao than in Cebu.

“They say that the businessmen in Davao are all for Duterte and if they are caught speeding, they have to pay (fine for violating speed limit),” he said.

As far as leadership was concerned, Sycip said that based on the experience of Singapore under the city-state’s former President Lee Kuan Yew, “western democracy may not be the best for emerging market countries.”

“We have all the freedoms we might say but in terms of per capita income everyone has passed us except Laos and Cambodia.  Even Vietnam will pass us,” he said.

Asked whether he thought someone like Duterte could be a Lee Kuan Yew, Sycip—who personally knew the late Singaporean leader—said the latter was not just tough but likewise very bright. He said he didn’t know much about Duterte, except that he had a law degree, but hinted he was wary about him declaring he had so many wives and girlfriends.

When investors ask him about Philippine elections, Sycip said he would tell people that the local elections were “better” than the US elections, which he said were harder to understand. “I ask them not to worry about the elections in that sense,” he said.

“As long as you have an honest President you will get investments,” he said.

After the Marcos dictatorship was toppled in 1986, Sycip said Cory Aquino was herself honest but being away for so long, didn’t have enough good people to appoint to her Cabinet. “She wasn’t successful as many of the people put in her Cabinet didn’t have integrity.”

In the case of President Aquino, Sycip said he was not aware of the President giving in favors or accepting bribes to approve a project. He said this was “unusual” compared to the stories that had come out before Aquino’s term, he said.

Many of the reforms undertaken during the outgoing administration, he said, would not likely be reversed after the May elections.  However, he said he would wish for more decentralization of power in the country.

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