Foreign and local business groups have thrown their support behind the administration’s 10-point economic agenda.
The Joint Foreign Chambers, a group of foreign business groups in the Philippines, gave a score of 9 (with 10 being the highest), for the new administration’s reform agenda. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry also rated it at 8 or 9.
While the reforms spelled out in the 10-point economic agenda have yet to take roots, business groups agreed that the path taken by the government would lead to lower poverty incidence and generate more jobs and livelihood opportunities for Filipinos.
“What we all want is basically more foreign direct investments. But having more foreign direct investments hangs on opening up the economy. So we cannot have more foreigners coming in if investment restrictions are still in place,” European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines vice president Henry Schumacher said.
“Our understanding of the vision of the Duterte administration is that foreign direct investment is needed and that it would lead basically to more employment and that’s exactly what Duterte wants to do. I think basically we have the opinion that the growth we have seen the last few years will continue in 2016,” Schumacher said.
Average annual foreign direct investments increased from $117 million under the Marcos administration to $644 million under the presidency of Corazon Aquino(1987 to 1992); $1.5 billion under Fidel Ramos; $1.74 billion under Joseph Estrada; $1.54 billion under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; and $4 billion under Benigno Aquino III.
JFC said despite increasing investments, business and economic reforms failed to move faster in the 16th Congress with only 17 laws approved, compared to 34 laws in the 15th Congress.
JFC said several laws needed to be adjusted to open up the economy. It said there was a need to pass the Bangsamoro Basic law to render credence and flesh out the inclusive growth mantra of the current government.
Business groups said aside from attracting more investments, the government should induce consumption, fueled by growing remittances, business process outsourcing receipts which created a new social class and the recovery of the manufacturing sector.
JFC said the country should also work hard to revive exports and recharge the agriculture sector.
“We would also like agriculture to move. We have to see how the administration is going to address [them]. We see a sense of urgency that was not seen for many years,” it said.
Investors’ sentiments remain positive, despite the spate of killings in the name of war against narcotics.
PCCI lauded the president’s stance on finding harmony between a good economy and a peaceful “drug-free” existence. PCCI honorary chairman and treasurer Sergio Ortiz-Luis said the group had not received complaints that a member’s operations were hampered because of the ongoing campaign against drugs.
“Can you tell me if there are companies closing because of this. The government is taking away drugs and criminality. Duterte wants to make sure that there is no room for corruption in our system. What he wants is constitutional reform and that’s what many of us want. The government also wants a level playing field not hampered by land ownership and ownership restrictions,” Ortiz-Luis said.
He said the war waged against criminality and drugs is a war that can be won.
“The war is a matter of perception. We are only concerned of what the investors will think,” he said.