The centerpiece public infrastructure program of the Duterte administration just got a big boost with the pledge of the Japanese government to funnel some $8.7 billion in aid and private investments into the Philippines over the next five years, a sign of the continuing strong friendship between the two countries.
But wait, there will be more, said Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, adding that more nations as well as corporations overseas have expressed keen interest to invest in the Philippines, which is expected to grow this year at a robust and enticing 6.5 percent, among the fastest in Asia.
At the end of February, for example, President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to visit the Middle East, to visit the large Filipino communities in the oil-producing nations as well as drum up more foreign direct investments into the Philippines, which boasts of a young, educated and growing population and sound macroeconomic fundamentals.
“We’ve just started the year and we’re off to a very good start,” Lopez told the Inquirer. “More investments will be coming through the pipeline.”
To start the year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the first head of state to visit the Philippines after the election of President Duterte, announced that Japan would bring in some $8.7 billion in official development assistance and private investments over the next five years or the rest of President Duterte’s term.
“I think the (pledge from Japan is) the biggest so far (from any country) during the Duterte administration,” Lopez said.
Arguably, “it may actually be higher than China’s pledge, which is about $6 billion in official development assistance and $3 billion in financing facility,” he said.
Japanese Foreign Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura explained further that Japan would like to contribute to the Philippines’ infrastructure development, including transportation and electricity, using Japanese expertise.
The two countries would establish a joint committee on economic cooperation and infrastructure and Japan would send experts to the National Economic Development Authority.
The world’s third largest economy also wanted to be involved in peace and development in Mindanao, including the urban development of President Duterte’s hometown, Davao City, and the implementation of projects in irrigation, sanitation, power, road construction and education in conflict areas.
Lopez, meanwhile, had said that the government was generating opportunities for Japanese investors in five priority areas—manufacturing, infrastructure and logistics, tourism, services and agribusiness.
Late last year, the Philippines also secured from China a pledge of $6 billion in official development assistance and $3 billion in financing facilities, the bulk of which the Duterte government wants channeled into job-generating and economy-boosting infrastructure projects.
Lopez emphasized yesterday that the government was taking an aggressive stance in attracting investments as it wants to achieve inclusive growth, where the bulk of the population would feel the benefits of the general growth of the economy, a goal that eluded the previous administration.
But even with these big-ticket infrastructure and investment programs in place, Lopez said the Department of Trade and Industry would not lose sight of its focus on the micro, small and medium-scale enterprises, which comprise the bulk of registered businesses in the Philippines.