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Lao PDR—Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared that the Philippines’ economic thrust for inclusive growth will focus on innovating micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) development, e-commerce, youth and women entrepreneurship, as he served as one of the speakers in the 13th ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) held on 6 September in Vientiane.
 
The President believes that in order to be a global player, ASEAN must ensure the effective implementation of key economic agreements and the integration of existing sub-regional cooperation frameworks in ASEAN such as the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) and the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
 
 
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte marked his first participation in the 13th ASEAN Business and Investment Summit on 6 September 2016 in Vientiane, Lao PDR. Joining him were Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Domonguez III, the Philippine-ASEAN Business Advisory Council (PH-ABAC) led by incoming chairman Mr. Joey Concepcion, Ms. Tessie Sy-Coson and Mr. George T. Barcelon, and the Filipino Entrepreneur Awardees at the 2016 ASEAN Business Awards, led by Ms. Sherill Quintana of Oryspa.
 
“Hailing from Mindanao, I commit to promote BIMP-EAGA. We intend to open up our other major islands like Mindanao and the Visayas with high quality backbone infrastructure,” he said, adding that the Philippines will accelerate infrastructure spending by improving national roads and bridges.
 
The President, joined by key economic managers, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez and Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, called for ASEAN’s support for MSME development and expressed hope to further expand the Roll-On Roll-Off (RO-RO) facility to Davao-General Santos and Bitung in Indonesia.
 
“We will work and collaborate with ASEAN in helping the MSMEs look for all ways to connect them in the countries of ASEAN and the world. We will work in advancing our policy and regulatory environment providing an affordable and innovative digital platforms, and accessing best practices and financial resources,” he said.
 
ASEAN must engage the world in a “robust way” by maximizing Free Trade Areas (FTAs) with Australia and New Zealand, China, India, Japan, and Korea, according to him. He also announced that the Philippines will host the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) senior officials’ meeting in November 2016.
 
The President mentioned that ASEAN needs “stronger resolve and action to combat transnational crime” and noted that illicit and illegal drug trade undermines “social cohesion, the rule of law and the socio-economic programs of a country.” 
 
Speaking before members of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ABAC), which gathers leading CEOs, heads of chambers and commerce and industry and business organizations from ASEAN Member States (AMS), the President emphasized that sensibly-crafted and well-implemented laws are imperative towards bringing good governance and order, as well as providing an enabling environment for the country’s progress and prosperity.
 
“We should act together in concert to ensure that the economic gains we made so far will advance at full speed, so that ASEAN can confidently play its rightful role as a global player contributing to economic growth and prosperity,” he concluded.  
 
The ABIS is ASEAN’s premier annual business and investment event, which coincides with the 28th ASEAN Summit. Per organizers, ABIS is where the ASEAN private sector identifies, discusses and develops answers to pressing issues that impact the region’s investment attractiveness and business potential.
 
ABIS 2016, carrying the theme “Operationalizing ASEAN Economic Community—Turning Vision into Reality,” aimed at charting new ideas, opportunities and insights to propel the business sector towards regional development. 
 
Investments approved by the Philippine Board of Investments (BOI) in the first seven months of the year reached Php210.37 Billion, remarkably up by 98% from the Php106.08 Billion posted in the same period of 2015.  The investment pledges were generated from 192 projects with total estimated job generation of 37,487 expected at full operations.
 
The increase in investments from January to July 2016 was attributed mainly to the approval of notable big ticket power and infrastructure projects such as the Limay Premier Power Corp., GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation, Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC), and two renewable energy projects - Bayog Wind Power Corp. and Cordillera Hydro Electric Power Corporation, with generating capacity of 150MW and 60MW, respectively. Compared with the same period last year, energy projects surged by 325% this year, accounting for 51% of total approvals.
 
For the month of July, among the top approved projects are El Elyon Power Plan Phils. Inc. (Php11.64 Million), with a generating capacity of 160MW in Sarangani Province, and Luzon Clean Water Development Corp. (Php8.38 Million), a PPP project for the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project (Stages 1 and 2 –under the concession agreement with the MWSS).
 
The other sectors topping investment approvals are construction, followed by mass housing, manufacturing and the transportation & storage sector.  Major manufacturing sub-sectors include food products; motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers; fabricated metal products; leather and other related products; wearing apparel; and other manufacturing products.
 
Singapore topped the list among the foreign country investors in the first seven months with investments worth Php9.83 Billion or 27% share to total approved foreign investments during the period.  Netherlands came in second with investments amounting to Php7.12 Billion, followed by South Korea with Php6.42 Billion, Japan with Php5.69 Billion and British Virgin Islands with Php2.02 Billion.
 
Region 3 got the highest investments approvals worth Php44.32 Billion or 21% share to total approved investments.  The National Capital Region (NCR) came in second with committed investments worth Php37.05 Billion. Significant investments were also directed to Region IVA; Region VII; Region XII; Region I; Negros Island Region; and CAR. 
 
“Investments coming in are in sectors that will elevate our competitiveness such as in power and infrastructure,” said Trade Undersecretary and BOI Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo.  “Dispersion of investments in the region had also changed.  NCR usually receives the highest amount of investments, but now, investments are dispersed as other regions take the lead in attracting more investments,” he said.  
 
Trade Secretary and BOI Chairman Ramon Lopez said that the agency expects approved investment pledges to further grow on the back of sound economic fundamentals and sustained investor confidence.
 
“While confidence in the economy remains with investments continuing to pour in, the government is pursuing a number of strategic investment policy and promotion initiatives in a bid to further strengthen its efforts in attracting a massive flow of domestic and foreign investments in the country particularly those that would bring in new technology,” said Secretary Lopez.  
 
To achieve these, Secretary Lopez said the government will pursue synchronization of the investment promotion efforts of all the investments promotion agencies (IPAs) to support Philippine branding.  “We will be more focused on promoting strategic investments to position the country as a world class investments destination,” Secretary Lopez said. 
 
He also said that the agency is looking at modernizing the current investment incentives regime by proposing amendments to the 1987 Omnibus Investments Code. “In granting incentives, we will focus on creating decent jobs in the Philippines. As such, bias against foreign investors and bias against those serving the domestic market will be removed.  Further, if the economic provisions of the  Constitution will be amended, greater foreign equity in sectors that are crucial to improving the competitiveness of industries such as infrastructure and utilities like telecommunications, roads, ports, and airports, may be allowed,” said Secretary Lopez.
 
Apart from this, the Trade Secretary said the agency is also looking at linking the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and other ecozone locators with the domestic MSMEs as suppliers of raw materials, intermediate parts and components.
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