Fourteen ambassadors representing the member-countries of the European Union (EU) have expressed their continued support for the Duterte administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda and bared plans to invest more in the Philippines, particularly in infrastructure, energy and civil security, among other fields of interest.
In a recent meeting with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the ambassadors from the EU countries also emphasized their cooperation with the Philippines in implementing the peace agreement in Mindanao.
Led by Ambassador Franz Jessen, the head of the EU delegation to the Philippines, the 14 ambassadors who met with Dominguez were from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Austria, the Netherlands, Romania, Denmark, Hungary, and Sweden.
They expressed their interest in “working closely” with the Philippines in implementing its 10-point socioeconomic agenda on inclusive growth.
The ambassadors were one in saying that they are looking forward to further strengthening the EU’s bilateral relations with the Philippines, especially in the field of trade and economic cooperation.
Swedish ambassador to Manila Harald Fries, in particular, said businessmen from Sweden are increasingly optimistic over business prospects in the Philippines and have expressed interest in visiting Manila to explore possible investments in infrastructure, energy, business process outsourcing, military, civil security, among others fields.
Ambassador Fries said a “record number of Swedish business leaders” would be coming to Manila in the next few weeks headed by Sweden’s Minister of Enterprise and Innovation.
The other envoys who met with Dominguez were Ambassadors Asif Ahmad of the United Kingdom; Jan Top Christensen, Denmark; Massimo Roscigno, Italy; Nicolaos Kaimenakis, Greece; Theirry Mathou, France; Jaroslav Olša, Jr., Czech Republic; Dr. Josef Muellner, Austria; Marion Derckx, Netherlands; Ronald Van Remoortele, Belgium; and Dr. Gordon Kricke, the ambassador-designate of the Federal Republic of Germany to Manila.
Chargé d’Affaires Mihail Bujor Sion of Romania, David Ambrus of Hungary and Carmela Barcia, the deputy chief of mission of the Spanish Embassy in Manila, also attended the meeting with Dominguez.
In response, Dominguez thanked the ambassadors for their support to the Duterte administration’s 10-point reform agenda as well as their continuing assistance to the Philippines and commitment to invest more in the country.
“If there are any business groups coming in I will be very happy to meet with them,” he said.
Dominguez acknowledged that fund assistance to the Philippines to establish drug rehabilitation facilities here forms part of the EU’s broader program to help the country deal with its war against illegal drugs.
“Building facilities is probably only 25 percent of the solution to the drug addiction issues, and we certainly need a lot of training, a lot of help in that area,” Dominguez said.
Besides the EU member-states, other countries have also expressed their interest in investing in the Philippines and broadening areas of economic cooperation under the Duterte presidency.
Earlier, Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Tanhaei informed the finance chief that Iran is keen on fostering better economic relations with the Philippines and, for starters, plans to import more bananas and explore areas of investment and cooperation in infrastructure and energy.
In a courtesy call on Dominguez, Tanhaei said Tehran also wants to strengthen connections between his country’s Central Bank and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to pave the way for Iranian investors to start doing business in the Philippines. The ambassador also informed Dominguez that a Deputy Minister of Iran’s Finance Ministry would be visiting the country this November to discuss with Philippine officials a framework of cooperation between Manila and Tehran.
Tanhaei said he is going to invite the head of Iran’s Central Bank to visit the Philippines to discuss issues on banking cooperation with the BSP.
Dominguez, in response, said: “We do want to improve our relationship with Iran and we would be very happy to meet your Central Bank Governor.”
Dominguez likewise assured Tanhaei that he would “be happy to assist him” and “will certainly welcome all of Iran’s officials” to Manila to help reinvigorate bilateral relations between the two countries.
In a recent statement, the World Bank said “the Philippines remains one of fastest growing economies in East Asia and the Pacific despite the weak global economy.”
“The country’s gross domestic product is forecast to grow 6.4 percent this year and 6.2 percent in the next two years,” the World Bank statement said.
“The Philippine economy may surpass the forecasts if authorities can further ramp up spending on public infrastructure as planned,” said the World Bank in its Philippine Economic Update titled ‘Outperforming the Region and Managing the Transition.’
In its press statement, the World Bank pointed out that Mara Warwick, its Country Director for the Philippines, has said that “macroeconomic stability puts the Philippines in a good position to accelerate inclusive growth that benefits all Filipinos.”
According to the World Bank, its report noted that “as economic growth is sustained, and as spending on health, education, and social protection expands, extreme poverty is projected to decline from 10.6 percent in 2012 to 7.8 percent in 2016, 7.2 percent in 2017, and 6.7 percent in 2018.”
The World Bank report also took note of the Duterte administration’s plan to pursue comprehensive tax policy reforms as one of its priorities, “to make the country’s tax system more equitable, efficient, and competitive in the region.”
In its press statement, the Bank also noted that Birgit Hansl, its Lead Economist, has said that “domestic consumption will also continue to prop up the economy, driven by three factors: rising purchases from an expanding middle-class, remittances from overseas Filipino workers, and the expansion of jobs as a result of the growing economy.”
“Many reforms are being unveiled, specifically on tax policy and administration, the tracking of government spending, security of land tenure, ease of doing business, and restrictions on foreign participation,” said Hansl.