From L to R: (front) Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla, DOE; Secretary Enrique A. Manalo, DFA; Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, House Speaker; President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.; Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual, DTI; Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, DA; Secretary Frederick Go, OSAPIEA; (back) Gil Gozalez, Executive Diretor, ASEAN BACMPH; James Amparo, Founder&President, Yovel East R&D Inc./Yovel East Agriventures; Dr. William Dar, Senior Adviser, PH Center for Entrepreneurship Foundation Inc, – Go Negosyo; Hj Musa Hj Adnin, ASEAN BAC Brunei Council Member; YB Pengiran Haji Isa Bin Pengiran Haji Aliuddin, President, Brunei Association of Agricultural Farmers; YB Lau How Teck, Legislative Council Member and Founder of Hua Ho; Haji Abdul Halim Haji Sai, Representative of Hua Ho Agricultural Farm

JERUDONG, BRUNEI DARUSSALAM — Amid positive growth in bilateral trade with Brunei, the Philippines expressed eagerness to explore more avenues for expanding trade and investment relationships according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

DTI Secretary Fred Pascual echoed to potential investors President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s call for stronger economic collaboration during the Philippine Business Forum on May 29. The forum is among the engagements of the President’s state visit to Brunei Darussalam.

“While our total bilateral trade has been growing positively, we recognize the untapped potential that we can further develop. There are exciting opportunities to expand our trade and investment relationships, and we are eager to work with you in exploring these avenues,” said the trade chief.

Brunei is the Philippines’ 38th trading partner and 43rd source of foreign direct investment in 2023. The Secretary noted that while trade and investment ties are still in their early stages, the Philippines recognizes the considerable untapped potential between the two nations, and presents openness to collaborate with Brunei to explore these possibilities moving forward.

The Department also reported that the Philippines, with its strong renewable energy resources and infrastructure, can significantly contribute to Brunei’s efforts to diversify its energy mix with cleaner energy solutions. The country, the agency said, stands as a valuable partner of Brunei, as it boasted a growth rate of 5.6% in gross domestic product in 2023, which outpaced many East and Southeast Asian economies.

The trade chief noted that this strong stature attests to the collective efforts and strategic initiatives undertaken to stimulate economic activity and recovery under the leadership of President Marcos Jr. Policy reforms like the CREATE Law offer fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to guarantee full support for high-value strategic investments including those from Bruneian businesses.

Additionally, the recent Executive Order No. 18 established green lanes for strategic investments, while Executive Order No. 32 simplified the telecommunications and internet infrastructure permitting process.

The Philippines has also leveraged existing frameworks like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which streamlines market access for goods and encourages investments in crucial sectors across the region. 

Furthermore, the country urged stronger economic collaborations through the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA). By strengthening the participation of local businesses and government agencies in BIMP-EAGA, Secretary Pascual said the Philippines envisions a more integrated economic zone where micro, small, and medium enterprises can connect with regional supply chains including those in Brunei, ultimately contributing to a unified ASEAN production base.

Beyond regional initiatives, the trade chief added that the Philippines presents a wealth of untapped opportunities for Bruneian businesses. Its abundant agricultural resources can serve as a reliable supply chain for Brunei’s renowned Halal certification system. This synergy, he cited, would be mutually beneficial as Brunei’s trusted Halal standards can open doors to international markets for Philippine producers, while the Philippines’ diverse agricultural base guarantees a consistent supply of Halal-compliant raw materials.

Additionally, the Philippines boasts a strong domestic market for Halal products with a significant Muslim population. According to the Trade and Industry Secretary, through deeper economic cooperation, the Philippines and Brunei can address this demand and create an integrated Halal industry that aspires to become a regional and international hub.

Apart from the opportunities from the Halal Industry, Secretary Pascual also recognized Brunei’s strong foundation in Islamic finance principles positions it well in the rapidly growing global Islamic Finance industry. Recognizing this expertise, he said the Philippines seeks opportunities to develop international finance hubs, catering to the rising interest in Shari’ah-compliant financing and investments.

Finally, Secretary Pascual extended a warm invitation to Bruneian businesses to explore investment opportunities in the country aligned with the national agenda.

“With our shared efforts and cooperation, I am confident that we will achieve our economic goals and promote prosperity for both our nations.  As one of our key partners, I invite you to do business and invest in our country. Together, let’s Make it Happen in the Philippines,” he said.

Prominent Bruneian companies and business organizations participated in the forum including Jollibee Foods Corporation, ASEAN BAC Brunei Council, APEC Business Advisory Council, and Brunei Economic Development Board.

Building on the strong business presence in the forum, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Philippines also presented an agreement on MSME development and food security to establish regional stability and sustainable economic growth. Further, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its Bruneian counterpart. ♦

Date of release: 30 May 2024