The Philippine economic team, led by Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, held its first investor briefing in the Middle East with Philippine Dialogue: Economic Outlook and Opportunities on September 10, 2023 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, Qatar.
The Dialogue served as an avenue for potential investors to sit down with the economic team and actively engage in in-depth discussions on the Philippines’ current investment landscape.
“We believe that the Philippines’ moment has arrived. We look forward to jumpstarting the conversation today and exploring exciting investment opportunities with the Middle East business community in the coming years,” Secretary Diokno said during his keynote message.
The investor roundtable began with welcome remarks from Sandeep Uppal, President and Chief Executive Officer of HSBC Philippines, who touted the Philippines’ growing economy, favorable demographic profile, and economic liberalization efforts.
“Given the very dynamic nature of the Asian markets, while there are a number of markets to choose from, Philippines stands out for me due to three Gs: growing economy which, pre-pandemic, was growing at over 5 percent and is now back on that trend; growing population, which continues to grow from the current base of 115 million; and growing liberalization,” Uppal said, adding that HSBC Group continues to see the Philippines as a key Asian market for their investments.
Following Uppal’s remarks, Philippine Ambassador to Qatar Lillibeth V. Pono delivered the opening and introductory remarks, recognizing the Philippines as a gateway to the Indo-Pacific market.
Secretary Diokno highlighted in his keynote the Philippine government’s 197 infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs), 39 of which will be undertaken through public-private partnerships (PPPs).
With this, the Finance Secretary gave investors an overview of the Philippines’ enhanced PPP policy environment, which allowed for faster PPP approvals owing to the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law; revised Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) guidelines; and enhanced NEDA Joint Venture (JV) Guidelines.
As a result of these policy improvements, the Philippine government has now approved four PPP proposals in record time with a total project cost of PHP 212.8 billion (around US$ 3.8 billion).
To establish a more stable and predictable policy environment for PPPs, Secretary Diokno expressed the full support of the Department of Finance (DOF) for the Congressional approval of the proposed PPP Act. This will provide a unified legal framework for all types of PPPs.
Secretary Diokno also talked about the Philippines’ improved corporate tax and fiscal incentives system, reformed through the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act. CREATE reduced the country’s corporate income tax rates and rationalized the fiscal incentives system to make it performance-based, timebound, targeted, and transparent.
“The corporate tax reform law also provides for a 40-year tax incentive package for highly desirable projects or activities with a capital investment of at least 900 million US dollars, or those that can create at least 10,000 jobs. This is subject to the approval of the President,” he added.
Finally, Secretary Diokno introduced the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), which will serve as an additional source and mode of financing for the priority projects of the government, as well as green and blue projects, countryside development, environmental, social, and governance (ESG), and modern technologies.
“The Fund aims to attract the participation of local and foreign capital, large global funds, global financial institutions, multilateral partners, and other sovereign wealth funds to make direct equity investments in Philippine ventures and projects,” he said.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Francisco G. Dakila, Jr. presented the Central Bank’s outlook on inflation and the enduring strength of the Philippine banking system.
Meanwhile, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman gave an overview of priority sectors in the 2024 budget – shovel-ready infrastructure, human capital development, sustainable agriculture and food security, and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan gave an in-depth presentation on the IFP list and target sectors for PPP participation. He also highlighted opportunities for investments in the renewable energy sector, which would be pivotal to the country’s socioeconomic transformation.
After the presentations, the economic team, along with BSP Assistant Governor Atty. Arifa A. Ala, engaged in a moderated panel discussion to answer questions on the Philippines’ infrastructure drive, investments in Mindanao, fiscal targets, inflation, and Islamic banking in the Philippines, among others.
Over 70 senior executives of Qatar-based funds and corporates, as well as representatives of business groups, industry associations, the financial community, and public sector attended the event.
The Philippine Dialogue was organized by the BSP Investor Relations Group (IRG) and the DOF, in cooperation with the Philippine Embassy in Qatar and in partnership with Citi, Deutsche Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, MUFG, and Standard Chartered Bank.
Engagements with public and private institutions in Qatar
On the same day, Secretary Diokno, Secretary Pangandaman, Secretary Balisacan, Deputy Governor Dakila, and Ambassador Pono paid a courtesy visit to Qatar Finance Minister Ali Bin Ahmed Al Kuwari at the Ministry of Finance in Doha.
The economic team took the opportunity to introduce the administration’s 8-Point Socioeconomic Agenda, Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028, Public Investment Program (PIP) 2023-2028, and the administration’s IFPs.
Meetings were also held with Qatar-based businesses, investors, and funds.
The economic team met with senior executives of Qatar Cool, the leading district cooling plant company in Qatar, to discuss their ongoing interest in setting up operations in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the MIF was presented in further detail with executives from the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund established in 2005 for the protection and growth of its financial assets, as well as the diversification of the economy.
Small group meetings were also held with the Qatar Insurance Company (QIC), the largest insurance company in the Gulf region, and the Qatar National Bank (QNB), the largest financial institution in Qatar.
Qatar is the third-largest destination for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with over 200,000 Filipinos working and residing in the country.
In 2022, bilateral trade with Qatar amounted to US$ 599,189,726 which is 166.92 percent higher than that of 2021, which was at US$ 224,479,210.
Furthermore, Philippine exports to Qatar in 2022 amounted to US$ 59,183,046.