First and foremost, I want to acknowledge the presence of the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land where we meet today, the people of the Kulin Nation. I extend my respects to their Elders past and present.

Excellencies, colleagues from the government, business executives from the Philippines and Australia, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen; good morning.

The economic relationship between the Philippines and Australis is at its strongest, opening up fantastic opportunities for us to work together on important challenges that both our countries face.

Last week, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reaffirmed our countries’ commitment to strengthen our strategic partnerships further.

I am delighted to be back again in Australia after our highly successful Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting (PAMM) in October last year, where I met with my counterpart in Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell.

We also had a roundtable meeting with the members of the Australia-Philippines Business Council and Philippines-Australia Business Council, many of whom are with us now in today’s business forum.

Today, we witness the fruition of our October 2023 discussions and subsequent investment promotion efforts with the presentation of promising business agreements later in this forum. These investment leads signify the strengthening of the economic bond between our two nations.

We see opportunities for Australian business to invest in the Philippines’ priority sectors, such as critical minerals, renewable energy, education and training, and agriculture.

We are keen to continuously engage our Australian counterparts and its business community to solidify our bilateral relations following the elevation of our relationship into a strategic partnership.

The Philippines is one of the most dynamic economies in Southeast Asia, having a full-year gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 5.6 percent in 2023, outpacing major East and Southeast Asian economies.
Note: China (5.2 percent), Vietnam (5.0 percent), and Malaysia (3.8 percent)

In 2023, the Philippine-Australia bilateral trade has bounced back from the pandemic and has surpassed pre-pandemic levels with

total trade in 2023 reaching USD 4.1 billion, a 20% increase from the total trade of the previous year amounting to USD 3.4 billion.

While our total bilateral trade has been growing positively, we still have a lot of room for growth. I believe there is significant potential for our goods and services to have a bigger share in each other’s markets.

On investments, Australia has a significant contribution to total approved investments in the Philippines ranking as the 14th largest source of investments in 2023. Approved investments from Australia in 2023 surpassed USD18.3 million, indicating a 38 percent increase from the previous year.

I am confident that the full potential of our trade and investment relationship will be realized and facilitated by essential policy tools such as the Second Protocol of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) that the Philippines recently signed on 14 February 2024.

The Second Protocol of AANZFTA represents another milestone in our work to further strengthen regional trade and investment flows among ASEAN, Australia, and New Zealand. We want to ensure the agreement continues to benefit businesses and reinforce our strategic links in the region.

Market access commitments under the amended AANZFTA Chapter on Trade in Services will provide greater stability for Filipino businesses interested in investing and providing services in Australia. These include sectors such as professional services, education, transportation, construction, tourism, and banking services.

The Philippines has the presence of more than 300 Australian companies employing about 40,000 Filipino workers. These companies ventured into the Philippine market and optimized the strength of the Philippines in terms of world-class talent and a sound business climate.

Notably, manufacturing, administrative and support services, and information and communication, account for most of Australia’s investments in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the Philippines also has significant investments in Australia, and the success of these companies is a testament to the capability of Philippine companies to compete alongside Australian and other global companies.

Therefore, we acknowledge that there is a potential to enhance bilateral investment flows based on the synergies of both our economies, particularly in priority sectors such as green metals and renewable energy.

These sectors are crucial as we transition to a greener economy and achieve a low-carbon future, and correspondingly, they are aligned with Australia’s Southeast Asia Economy Strategy for 2040.

Today’s fruitful forum lays a strong foundation for collaborative growth and prosperity between our nation.

With the participation of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. later in the program, and our unwavering commitment to firmly pursue a more dynamic, open, and sustained partnership, we are poised to reap the benefits of a robust Philippines-Australia relationship.

Maraming Salamat and mabuhay! ♦

Date of release: 04 March 2024