TOKYO, JAPAN – President Rodrigo Duterte underscored on Wednesday the stronger economic ties with Japan which he said will continue to be a priority for the Philippines as the two countries celebrate the 60th year of bilateral relations.
Duterte told an economic forum here that his government was boosting investments in infrastructure and rural development as he urged Japanese businessmen to invest in the Philippines.
“We look to Japan as a steady fulcrum in our regional engagement as the Philippines’ first and only bilateral free trade partner to date,” he said.
At the Philippine Economic Forum organised by the Japan External Trade Organisation and other groups, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez also invited Japanese investment in information technology and business processing, small and medium enterprise.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez told the same forum that the government was working to ease limits to foreign ownership of Philippine businesses. He said the economy could sustain economic growth of 7 percent or higher.
“This is a fine time for looking at the Philippine economy as an investment destination. The bilateral relations between Japan and the Philippines has deepened, and we look forward to more intensive cooperation, Secretary Dominguez said.
“We look forward to investment inflows from Japan, especially those that will support strategic investments in the infrastructure and industry,” he added.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said foreign investors can help uplift farmers. Lack of government support in the past has resulted in the Philippines importing rice, he said.
“We have been a headless chicken running around, not knowing what to do, where to source our food,” he said.
Secretary Pinol attracted the attention of the Japanese investors to the country’s rubber, fish and marine products, coconut, forest products like wood and fiber.
Charito Plaza, director general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, said that Manila will explore new types of economic zones including a dedicated defense industrial zone.
“In as much as we are not yet that capable to be considered as a military power, and with the independent foreign policy of President Duterte, through the Defense Industrial Complex, we will be encouraging and inviting investors,” she said.
She said this can help the Philippines modernise its armed forces, improve its defense capability, and provide employment as well.
The Philippines boasts of having achieved an average of more than 6% growth in its gross domestic product during the last few years.
Meanwhile, President Duterte assured Japanese businessmen on Wednesday, October 26 at a luncheon hosted by Japanese business organizations, that the Philippines would remain by its side.
Duterte said maritime cooperation between the Philippines and Japan would continue.
“I give you my word today that we will not abandon Japan in our partnership and security matters given the common belief that our conflicts and problems with other nations must be resolved peacefully, in accordance with international law,” he told Japanese businessmen here.
“That is my assurance, that in all of these endeavors, we will be your partner and we will stand by our word,” he said. PND