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Investors getting weary of same old woes

Expensive electricity, foreign ownership limits, etc.
/ 01:48 AM November 14, 2011

GETTING WEARY High power rates, among others, has been a persistent woe of businesses in the Philippines, particularly exporters, prompting some of them to rethink future plans in the country. AFP PHOTO

The same issues—high power rates, unfavorable exchange rate policy, and foreign ownership restrictions—are starting to take their toll on businesses, prompting investors to rethink their future plans for the country.

According to Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, investors, particularly exporters, were getting tired of waiting for the government to address their perennial problems.

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The exchange rate policy of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, for example, had led many local exporters to either scale down their operations or close shop altogether as the strong peso has reduced their competitiveness in the global market, Ortiz-Luis explained.

“Our exchange rate is so erratic, very much dependent on government policy. For exporters, it’s like walking on a tightrope. They are helpless and they can’t plan properly,” he said in a phone interview.

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“We should really amend the BSP’s mandate. When they make their policies regarding the exchange rate, it’s like they’re not part of the Philippines. They don’t consider the plight of industries. The BSP shouldn’t just control inflation, but also help in the development of the country,” he added.

Speculation by foreign banks on the fate of the local currency in reference to the US dollar, he said, should not be taken that seriously. Government policy-makers should put the country’s welfare, particularly its attractiveness as an investment destination, and the survival of local exporters on top of their priority list when making policy decisions.

The constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of land, he said, were another thing that the government should “seriously” consider addressing. Other issues that needed resolution were high power rates and the lack of streamlined fiscal incentives.

“These are things that we should have done 30 years ago. These problems persist and remain unsolved,” he said.

In an earlier interview, Ortiz-Luis said the state-owned Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp.’s pronouncement that the discounted power rates for economic zone locators would no longer be extended was a huge turnoff for exporters.

This has actually led some exporters to shut down their operations here and transfer to China, Vietnam or Indonesia.

But the Department of Energy said it was studying ways to keep the ecozone power discounts in place, either by an extension of the memorandum of agreement for the Ecozone Rate Program or the provision of discounted rates under different terms and references.

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TAGS: Business, exporters, Investors, Philippines
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