Philippines woos Australian investors for ‘blockbuster’ growth

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

In a pitch to Australian business leaders, Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto highlighted the Philippines’ readiness to embrace foreign investment, promising a ‘blockbuster’ growth trajectory.

The invitation was extended during the Philippine Business Forum in Melbourne, Australia, where Recto assured investors of the best opportunities to contribute to the country’s economic expansion.

“This is an exciting opportunity that Australian investors should certainly not miss out on,” Recto said, addressing approximately 100 Australian business and investment leaders, as well as government officials, on March 4, 2024, at the Ritz Carlton in Melbourne.

Recto presented the Department of Finance’s Growth-Enhancing Actions and Resolutions (GEARs) as a catalyst for investment-led growth, working alongside the government’s Medium-Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF).

He assured potential investors of a welcoming investment climate through regulatory improvements, cost reductions in doing business, and the removal of growth constraints.

A pivotal move by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to enact the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Code of the Philippines was highlighted as a commitment to private sector collaboration.

The PPP Code aims to foster a stable and competitive environment for high-quality investments and draws from over three decades of experience under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law.

Recto encouraged Australian investors to engage in the Philippines’ flagship infrastructure projects, which are part of the Build Better More program.

The program boasts 185 projects worth PHP 9.14 trillion, including sectors like power, connectivity, rural development, water, digitalization, sustainable initiatives, and healthcare.

The swift approval of the proposal to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which Recto described as “the fastest approved PPP project in history,” was cited as evidence of the Philippines’ efficiency in dealing with investments.

In addition to infrastructure, the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), the country’s first sovereign wealth fund, was introduced as another investment avenue.

Recto also pointed to recent liberalization laws that have opened up sectors such as telecommunications, transportation, banking, mining, and energy for broader investment opportunities.

The Retail Trade Liberalization Act, Public Service Act, and Foreign Investments Act amendments were specifically mentioned as measures that have made the Philippines more attractive to foreign direct investments (FDIs).

With a median age of 25, the Philippines offers a young and educated workforce, posing a strategic demographic partnership with Australia’s aging population.

Recto’s narrative also included the country’s economic resilience, evidenced by its fastest growth rate in the ASEAN region at 5.6% in 2023 and an anticipated 5.8% to 6.3% in 2024.

The forum also highlighted the country’s strong external position, low unemployment rates, and robust fiscal performance, which have contributed to maintaining high credit ratings.

The Philippine Business Forum, which took place alongside the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, served as a platform to strengthen trade and investment ties between the Philippines and Australia.

It featured presentations from key figures in both Philippine and Australian business sectors, including government officials and industry leaders.

The forum was organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in partnership with the Australia-Philippine Business Council (APBC), the Philippines-Australia Business Council (PABC) and the Australia-New Zealand Business Chamber (ANZCHAM).

Key business and government leaders who delivered respective presentations during the forum were President of ANZCham Benjamin Romualdez; Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla; Board Director of the Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) Atty. Ryan Jornada; Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director General Tereso Panga; CEO of the Victoria International Container Terminal Bruno Porchietta; and President and CEO of AC Energy Corporation (ACEN) Eric Fracia.

Other executives from select Australian companies who were present during the event were President of the APBC Rafael Toda; Founder and Deputy Chairman of St Baker Energy Innovation Fund Trevor Charles St Baker AO; Director of Medgate (Asia) Holdings Pty Limited David King; Head of Infrastructure & Energy Capital in the Asia Pacific of Macquarie Capital Ivan Varughese; and Chairman of the Philippines-Australia Business Council (PABC) Atty. Dennis Quintero.