From L to R: Bloomberg Television Anchor Joumanna Bercetche, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Kingdom of Morocco Ryad Mezzour, DTI Secretary Fred Pascual, and Minister of Treasury and Finance of Turkey Mehmet Şimşek.

DOHA, QATAR –– “We’re very happy about the performance of our economy, which is among the highest in Southeast Asia. And we’re making sure that we have the policy environment that will sustain growth.”

This is the statement made by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual as he represented the Philippines on the second day of the Qatar Economic Forum on May 15. In his discussion, he underscored the focus of the government on infrastructure development, improved connectivity, and strategic policy reforms, ensuring the country’s economic competitiveness in the region.

Central to this strategy, the DTI chief cited the continuation of the “Build, Build, Build” program, now named as the “Build Better More” Program with 185 flagship infrastructure projects worth over USD 161 billion. This program highlights the government’s intensified efforts to improve physical connectivity, digital infrastructure, water resources, health facilities, power, and agriculture infrastructure.

The DTI chief also shared that the Maharlika Investment Fund, the country’s first sovereign wealth fund, will provide additional support for these projects. With this, he encouraged the pursuance of public-private partnerships, following the recent passage of the first public-private partnership code providing a clear and predictable policy environment for private sector participation.

Another key priority presented is the improvement of physical connectivity within the country as exemplified in projects like the Central Luzon Economic Corridor, which is set to enhance transportation links between key economic hubs.

“We will build railways to interconnect a port somewhere in the north to Clark in the middle down to Manila and then down to Batangas, and that will improve the connectivity within Luzon,” Secretary Pascual added.

Further, he boasted that cyber connectivity is rapidly expanding through policy reforms, including opening sectors like telecommunications, utilities, and airports to 100% foreign ownership.

Highlighting the current administration’s commitment to upskilling the Filipino workforce, the DTI chief stressed the significance of partnerships with the private sector and international partners. Following this, he cited educational reforms that are also underway, such as the introduction of STEM in the education system.

The country is actively engaging with major economic blocs, including the United States, China, and the European Union (EU). The Philippines is also ensuring improved market access for our businesses through important trade mechanisms, exemplified through the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the resumption of EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations, and the first round of Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement negotiations with the UAE.

Affirming the Marcos Jr. administration’s continued commitment to foster economic growth and champion multilateral ties, Secretary Pascual emphasized, “Our competitive economic environment, coupled with our game-changing reforms, signals our readiness to attract foreign investments and support sustainable development. ♦

Date of release: 16 May 2024