Screenshot of participants during the Philippine Investment Forum for Malaysia
[Zoom Virtual Photo] Speakers: Hon. Ramon M. Lopez (Secretary, Department of Trade and industry) – photo only, HE. Charles C. Jose (Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Kuala Lumpur), Mr., Jonathan L Ravelas (First Vice President & Chief Market Strategist, Treasury Group, BOO Unibank, Inc.); Panelists: Atty. Felix William B. Fuentebella (Undersecretary, Renewable Energy, Power, Planning, Investment, and Media Affairs, and Spokesperson, Department of Energy), Atty. Elyjean DC Portoza (Director, Legal and Compliance Service, Board of Investments), Ms. Nolet M. Fulgencio (Special Agriculture Representative to ASEAN, Department of Agriculture), Dr. Danilo C. Lachica (President, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc.), Atty. Luis Enrico E. Salvador (Executive Director, External Affairs and Investor Relations, IT Business Process Association of the Philippines), Atty. Margaux A. Advincula (Partner, Business Tax Services, SGV and Co.); Host: Mr. Paolo Antonio L. Azurin (Adjunct Professor, Asian Institute of Management/ Head of Philippine Investment Banking, CLSA), and Moderator: Ms. Rosa Katrina V. Banzon (Commercial Attaché, Philippine Trade and Investment Center – Kuala Lumpur)

Make It Happen in the Philippines: The Philippine Investment Forum 2021 was successfully held on 14 October 2021. The fully virtual event aimed to promote the Philippines as an ideal investment destination and partner for companies in Malaysia. The program started with the 2nd Philippine Investment Forum for Malaysia, organized and hosted by the Philippine Trade and Investment Center – Kuala Lumpur (PTIC-Kuala Lumpur). This was held in the morning and was well-attended by potential investors and strategic partners, including government officials, C-level, and other company executives; and private sector representatives from Malaysia and other countries in the region.

H.E. Charles C. Jose, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Malaysia, kicked off the event with his Welcome Remarks, where he underlined the strong trade and investment relationship between the two countries and thanked Malaysian businessmen for their constant commitment and confidence in the Philippines.

Following the Ambassador’s speech was a recorded Keynote message from Hon. Ramon M. Lopez, Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Secretary Lopez assured that the Philippines is open for business. He reported that despite the pandemic there is a strong appetite among Malaysian companies to invest or expand their current businesses in the Philippines: “Malaysia remains to be the top trading partner and investment source of the Philippines. In 2020, Malaysia ranked as the 10th trading partner of the Philippines, with balance of trade in the favor of Malaysia. In terms of investment, Malaysia was the 12th source of IPA-approved investments, registering a growth of 43.90% from previous year. And this year (Jan. to Jun. 2021), Malaysia placed as the 6th source of FDI”. He expressed gratitude to Malaysia for its continued confidence and interest to invest in the Philippines, and likewise encouraged more business.

In his message, he identified priority sectors of investment specific to Malaysia, which are: manufacturing (semiconductor and electronics, food and beverage); agribusiness (upstream and downstream industries, such as value-added processing and manufacturing of agricultural products); services (high value and value-added services, especially in IT-BPM); infrastructure projects, property development, and construction services; and energy (especially renewable energy). In addition, recognizing Malaysia as a global Halal hub, Halal-specific investments are also encouraged, from food and beverage companies to Islamic banks. Malaysian companies are invited to invest in the Philippines to further grow the Halal industry and serve the Muslim (as much as 10 to 12 million Filipinos) and non-Muslim population. It was reported that an investment from Malaysia worth USD130-M, covering some sectors above, has been recently committed.

Sharing a perspective from the private sector, Jonathan L. Ravelas, First Vice President and Chief Market Strategist of BDO Unibank, Inc., presented updates on the Philippine economy and business landscape: Steering Towards Recovery. Although there are challenges due mainly to the pandemic, data shows the Philippine economy to be resilient and its business outlook optimistic – “a fueling and renewed optimism on the further re-opening of the economy”.

A lively discussion followed as a panel of esteemed experts shared their views and answered questions from the audience. The spotlight was on the “electronics industry, which accounted for USD39.7-B, or 62% of total Philippine commodity exports in 2020, and employs over 3 million direct and indirect workers”; the Philippine IT-BPM industry, which remains a strong global powerhouse, “demonstrating resilience in the face of unprecedented global disruption, adding 23,000 of jobs and generating revenues of USD26.7-B”; and investment opportunities in renewable energy, particularly solar energy. Drawing as much interest as the priority investment sectors is the recently-enacted tax and incentives regime under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE Act) of 2021, which lowers the Corporate Income Tax to 25% and bestows the President power to grant customized incentives for big ticket investments.

The panelists were Hon. Felix William B. Fuentebella, Undersecretary of the Department of Energy; Atty. Elyjean DC Portoza, Director, Legal and Compliance Service of the Board of Investments; Ms. Nolet M. Fulgencio, Special Agriculture Representative to ASEAN of the Department of Agriculture; Dr. Danilo C. Lachica, President of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI); Atty. Luis Enrico E. Salvador, Executive Director, External Affairs and Investor Relations of the IT Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP); and Atty. Margaux A. Advincula, Tax Partner of SGV and Co. The Open Forum was moderated by Ms. Katrina V. Banzon, Commercial Attaché of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center – Kuala Lumpur. The morning program was hosted by Mr. Paolo L. Azurin, Adjunct Professor of the Asian Institute of Management, and Head of the Philippines Investment – CLSA.

Global biz with PEZA, themed “Strengthening Southeast Asia Cooperation thru Philippines-Malaysia Ecozone Development and Business Continuity Forum”, was held later that day. Ambassador Jose delivered welcomed once again participants, along with H.E. Norman bin Muhamad, Ambassador of Malaysia to the Philippines. The main presentation was delivered by BGen Charito B. Plaza MNSA, Ph.D., entitled “Doing Business in PEZA: Investment Opportunities for the Malaysian Business Community”. The afternoon session highlighted PEZA as a one-stop and non-stop shop for investors. Among the many initiatives of PEZA is its very own PEZA visa for investors and their employees, which it is working on with the Bureau of Immigration. At PEZA, “investors can expect no red tape but red carpet treatment”, Director General Plaza assured.

Finally, in her closing remarks, Commercial Attaché Katrina Banzon of PTIC-Kuala Lumpur proudly shared: “From five major investments from Malaysia alone, IPA-approved investments between 2018 and 2020 is already valued at USD1.66-B”. These investments were made possible through the Department of Trade and Industry, in Malaysia (through PTIC-Kuala Lumpur) and BOI and PEZA in the Philippines, among others. PTIC-Kuala Lumpur reopened in 2016 and hosted the first Philippine Investment Forum 2018 in Malaysia. 

This year’s event was organized by the Philippine Trade and Investment Center – Kuala Lumpur and Philippines Economic Zone Authority; in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry, Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Kuala Lumpur, and Embassy of Malaysia in Manila; and supported by the Board of Investments, Department of Agriculture, BDO Unibank, Inc., SGV and Co., Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Philippines), Inc., IT Business Process Association of the Philippines, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc., and Asian Institute of Management. ♦

Date of Release: 14 October 2021