Swedish companies have expressed interest in providing sustainable solutions to the Philippines’ ongoing efforts to modernize its infrastructure under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program, particularly in setting up a bus rapid system and beefing up security in the country’s airports.
During a recent meeting with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez IIII, Swedish Ambassador to the Philippines Harald Fries said Sweden-based companies like the Volvo Group and Saab can lend their expertise to the government and take part in the “Build, Build, Build” program.
“The Build, Build, Build program generates a lot of interest among Swedish businesses,” said Fries during the meeting.
The Volvo Group manufactures trucks, buses, construction equipment and industrial engines, while the Saab Group specializes in defense and security systems.
“For infrastructure, we sell sustainable solutions. We have many decades of successful work in this area in Sweden. The Swedish infrastructure minister has invited Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to Sweden to study how we do it,” the ambassador said.
Also with Ambassador Fries during the meeting was Ulf Wennblom, country manager for the Philippines of Business Sweden.
According to Mr. Wennblom, Sweden has been “in close contact” with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) under Tugade to come up with efficient alternative solutions, such as the provision of passenger buses on EDSA, to help ease the woes of commuters riding the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) system.
Sweden has also provided financial and engineering support to the DOTr to help implement these alternative solutions, “and we also want to take that forward and build an efficient line on EDSA by integrating rail, buses, and other means of transport to have a complete transport system throughout Metro Manila,” Ulf said.
In response, Dominguez told them the government under President Duterte wants a holistic approach in implementing its infra modernization program, in which Sweden can help by providing engineering solutions.
Dominguez cited, for instance, proposals to improve the Ninoy Aquino International Airport or construct a new one near Metro Manila aside from the Clark airport, which requires not only completing these projects but also extensive planning on the road and rail networks that need to be built to ensure seamless travel to and from the airport site.
“We need to know how much rail we need to go there, how long will be the highways we have to connect and I think your engineering support can help us,” Dominguez told the Swedish delegation.
Dominguez also mentioned the plan to relocate the current airport in Zamboanga City in Mindanao to a better location.
“We have so many opportunities in the Philippines to improve the situation,” he said.
The ambassador had also informed Dominguez during the meeting that Swedish furniture retailer IKEA will soon open in the Philippines. “I know that the first store of IKEA is much anticipated by many Filipinos. It will be great for the Filipino consumer — and hundreds of jobs will be created,” Fries said.
During the meeting, Dominguez and the Swedish delegation briefly discussed the Duterte administration’s tax reform program and the upcoming National Tax Conference in Stockholm to be held in May this year; the need to update the Philippines-Sweden tax treaty to reflect new global standards on the exchange of information between countries; e-governance and bilateral trade.
Ambassador Fries also informed Secretary Dominguez about the intention of a Swedish manufacturing company to make a significant investment in the Philippines. Fries said that this would help boost Philippine exports and create more jobs in the country. Dominguez welcomed this development, saying that “investors who come up with value-added ideas” are what he is looking for to help improve the country’s economy.