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Singapore businesses urged to invest in the Philippines

5 February 2015 - Channel News Asia

Bilateral trade between the Philippines and Singapore went up by 2 per cent on-year in 2014. IE Singapore says there is great potential for Singapore companies to partner both the Philippine government and private sector.

Singapore businesses have been urged to tap opportunities in the Philippines, which was the second-fastest growing economy in Asia last year.

The Philippines-Singapore Business Council Forum was held on Wednesday (Feb 4). It is an annual event co-organised by the Singapore Business Federation and Makati Business Club.

Bilateral trade between the Philippines and Singapore hit S$15 billion last year – a 2-per cent increase from 2013. For the Philippines, Singapore is its fourth largest trading partner worldwide and top trading partner in ASEAN.

“The Philippines’ economic resurgence, driven by domestic demand and economic reforms, has led to renewed interest from Singapore as well as Singapore-based companies,” said Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang. “As the Philippine economy continues to grow, demand for consumer goods and infrastructure development in sectors such as transportation and housing will rise in tandem.”

IE Singapore said there is great potential for Singapore companies to partner both the Philippine government and private sector, especially in developing infrastructure.

Under the Public-Private Partnership Programme introduced by the Philippine government in 2010, several projects have been successfully tendered by Singapore firms such as SMRT and MSI Global.

IE Singapore also said local firms are starting to explore opportunities beyond the capital city Manila into regions such as Cebu and Clark.

“Singapore at the moment is our second largest investor in investment projects. It’s also the third largest in terms of direct portfolio investments,” said Mr Guillermo Luchangco, the Philippine co-chair of the Philippines-Singapore Business Council. “We do have a very active investment incentive programme. Depending on the type of industry you bring in, it can get a lot of tax incentives and there is ease of bringing in people.”

The Philippines also has one of the highest household consumption expenditure in ASEAN, with a population of 96 million people. This offers considerable opportunities in consumer sectors, across the F&B, fashion and retail categories.

Despite the opportunities, experts said businesses need to be aware of the hurdles involved when investing in the Philippines.

Mr Shanker Iyer, a council member of SBF, said: “There are challenges all the way through, right from setting up and doing business there, getting work permits. Businessmen setting out in the Philippines have to prepared for some frustration to get going.”