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From lockdown to unlocking growth: Investment and optimism paving way to a better normal

THE RAPID SPREAD of coronavirus resulted in a global lockdown that is still in effect today. The United Nations (UN) has forecast that global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows may decrease by up to 40% in 2020, which could have a severe impact on developing economies such as the Philippines.

But as we approach the end of a tumultuous year, we are grateful for many reasons in the Philippines, not least for the continued optimism and investment in our country that is enabling us to not only survive, but also positioning us to thrive in 2021.

From April this year, the Philippine government’s Board of Investments (BoI), in cooperation with our partner the UK government, set about promoting our country’s stimulus package to both domestic and foreign-owned companies based in the Philippines that have been affected by the virus. The campaign’s success speaks for itself — in a matter of months we’ve seen a 138% increase in company support, and a 405% increase in business engagements on specific channels.

Building upon our strong economic foundations, the Philippines firmly remains an attractive destination to do business, considered one of the top emerging economies for companies looking to expand in Asia by the likes of The Economist. Multilaterals including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund forecast a V-shaped recovery in our immediate future, with the Asian Development Bank anticipating a rebound of as much as 6.5% for the Philippines in the year ahead. Inclusive growth is being realized as further government stimulus measures are implemented and structural reforms take effect.

FDI plays an essential role in the strength of the Philippines’ economy, increasing by 40% in the three-year period to 2019. Our growth to date has been driven by our capacity and capability in leading sectors, including electronics manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, information technology (IT), and health. The Philippines already attracts a host of leading international businesses such as Siemens AG, Dyson, Mitsubishi, and Lufthansa Technik, all of which are established in the market.

There is reason for a positive outlook here as well, with foreign investment inflows rising for the third consecutive month of 2020. Philippine FDIs are projected to reach $7 billion in 2021.

This is made possible by our market’s competitive advantages and specifically cited by most locators, such as a highly skilled workforce, highly educated English-speaking people, an abundance of natural resources, and a growing domestic market, as well as our strategic geolocation in the heart of Southeast Asia. Rapid development of IT parks and economic zones in the Philippines and its focus on sustainable economic development through infrastructure are also key strengths.

But there is another perhaps less-known factor in the Philippines growth story, and one that is innate to our culture and our people: optimism.

It is why, with the aid of our UK government partner, we are proud to launch the Philippines’ first sustained multi-sector, multi-market investment brand — “Make It Happen in the Philippines.”

Specifically designed and developed to generate foreign investment leads, the new brand encapsulates the spirit of our country, our workforce, and our success, plus our “make it work” mindset that makes us a unique and attractive investment landscape in the ASEAN region for foreign investors. There is much evidence to support our country becoming the investment choice for businesses looking to go global.

Through our spirit of “can-do” optimism, combined with investment, we are determined to create a “Better Normal” out of the pandemic, where all our countrymen will have greener jobs and better and more sustainable livelihoods in a safe and secure post-pandemic future.

As the Duterte administration is working hard towards the Philippines’ recovery against coronavirus, we are committed to continuing our country’s economic growth story. That is why we are calling on our international friends to take a closer look at how they can partner with the Philippines. They will surely see how we can ably support their business expansion plans so that they too may “Make it Happen in the Philippines.”


Ramon M. Lopez is the Secretary of Trade and Industry.

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