The panel discussion in progress at the event in Dubai on Tuesday. Kamal Kassim / Gulf Today
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
The Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Economic team led by Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno is in the UAE to introduce to possible stakeholders the unprecedented Maharlika (Royalty) Investment Fund (MIF) and to ramp up foreign direct investments, not only limited in the area of infrastructure projects for the globally-required physical and digital connectivity across the Southeast Asian economy of over 117.7 million population across 7,641 islands, but also in other growth sectors.
Through “The 2023 Philippine Economic Briefing in Dubai,” with Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Alfonso Ver and Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates Renato Duenas Jr. in attendance, the team presented the country’s current economic environment, including timely revisions to the Islamic Banking and Finance schemes, before possible investors at the Ritz Carlton Hotel (Dubai International Financial Centre) on Tuesday morning.
In his keynote address, Diokno said the leadership is determined to ace the position of the Philippines as one of the fastest growing emerging nations in the Asia-Pacific Region by way of “physical and digital connectivity” especially so that from 2001 to 2015, allocated only for infrastructure development was two per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
“This is why the Philippines lagged behind its neighbours; but in 2016, the previous administration made a commitment to aggressively and rapidly pursue infrastructure development, allowing us to build infrastructure spending to about five per cent of GDP and this created more jobs and stimulated high economic growth. The Marcos Jr. Administration is building on this momentum. In fact, the commitment to maintain public spending in infrastructure at five per cent of GDP annually is embedded in the current Medium-Term Fiscal Programme.”
Diokno highlighted the $155-billion (Dhs569.3 billion/Php8.8 trillion) investment opportunities in 197 Infrastructure Flagship Projects which President Marcos Jr. had approved in August; 39 of which shall be undertaken through revised and revitalised public-private partnership rules and regulations, anchored on the Build-Operate-Transfer Law that shall allow “private players to get a reasonable rate of return on their investments.”
“These priority infrastructure projects focus on unlocking greater economic productivity through physical connectivity, digital connectivity, health, power and clean energy, agriculture, flood management, water supply and irrigation,” he added, citing particularly the Cavite-Laguna Expressway Project and the New Manila International Airport Project.
Meanwhile, tapping too, on the potential of the over 600,000 Filipinos across the seven emirates as investors themselves, on Wednesday evening and over at the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai will be the “Financial Literacy Session on Retail Dollar Bonds 2” courtesy of the Bureau of Treasury with conduits such as the Landbank of the Philippines.
From the global data and business intelligence platform Statista, by the end of 2022, UAE-based Filipinos had remitted to their home country a total of $1.35 billion equivalent to Php74.6 billion at current exchange rate.
With Diokno are Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Budget and Management Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Francisco Dakila Jr., BSP Assistant Governor Arifa Ala, and National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon.
According to the National Economic Development Authority press release forwarded to Gulf Today, the team met with UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi. They also had separate meetings with officials of Nasdaq Dubai, Arqaam Capital, Maybank Islamic Berhad Dubai, Investment Corporation of Dubai, among others.
From the press release: “The ‘Philippine Dialogue’ in Doha, Qatar held on September 10 and the ‘Philippine Economic Briefing’ on September 12 in Dubai, UAE, and several other investor meetings are part of the Economic Team’s first non-deal roadshow and briefings in the Middle East.”
Balisacan in his presentation, emphasised on the commitment of the Marcos Jr. Administration to develop Southern Philippines or Mindanao, inhabited by over 28 million, he had described as “one of the country’s most promising regions because of its significantly untapped potential for various growth drivers, particularly in agriculture and agro-processing.”
In Mindanao are 79 IFPs valued at $49.5 billion (Dhs182 billion/Php2.8 trillion), nine of which are being implemented through PPPs.
Balicasan said: “There has never been a better time to invest in the Philippines. Opportunities await not only in infrastructure, as mentioned, but also in our promising growth drivers such as agribusiness, mining, tourism, manufacturing, education, creative industries, healthcare, information technology and business process management sectors.”
On the sidelines, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Asia Regional Director Marwan Al Marri who would visit the Philippines and who wants to know how the Philippines is tackling electric vehicles for one, said: “The event was informative and structured very well. The panelists definitely laid out a very good impression on why people must invest in the Philippines. The Philippines is indeed a strategic partner with the UAE and the Middle East and North Africa.”
From the press conference and in answer to this reporter’s enquiry on why foreigners and overseas Filipinos must invest in the Philippines, amidst controlled and uncontrolled global challenges, both BSP Deputy Governor Dakila and Balisacan said that while these are being recognised and so are addressed, invitations are being done so that when these turbulence have cleared, the requirements to fan more socio-economic growth and progress are already in place and functioning.
Balicasan said that while there are short-term hiccups, investors are more interested beyond these.