Philippines told to open up to investors

Manila could make more of its charms. Source: Pixabay

The Philippines remains a relatively unattractive prospect for foreign investors, meaning it lags behind its Asean neighbours, according to the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) president Perry Pe.

“We are so good at enticing foreign investors. We are so good at inviting them into our country and say please come to the Philippines because it is fun in the Philippines, it is so good in the Philippines. But the moment the foreign investor comes here, we’re so good at frustrating them,” he said.

“We’re so good at making them feel as if they are not welcome. We put up so many restrictions along the way, so many red tape that ease of doing business becomes zero. Whether it be from a Bureau of Internal Revenue perspective, from a Customs perspective and even from the Securities and Exchange Commission perspective,” Pe said.

There were numerous areas where foreign businesses could thrive in the republic, Pe opined, but restrictions and corruption scared off investors.

The MAP boss praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration for its effort to relax constitutional barriers on foreign investment.

“In MAP, we’re supporting other business groups in trying to call for this current administration to repeal and take out all those economic provisions, whether it be on the federal system of government or whether it be just in pure constitutional amendment,” Pe argued.

Manila’s Department of Tourism says it is studying the possibility of a visa waiver for Chinese tourists to boost visitor numbers. A source said visa requirements were a major inconvenience faced by Chinese tourists when they visited.

During 2015 around 491,000 Chinese arrived in the archipelago, only a small proportion of the 120 million outbound trips made by Chinese nationals during the year.

Around 50 countries have visa-free agreements with the Philippines.

The department aims to increase Chinese arrivals to one million next year.

To achieve this, the Philippines would need 45 flights a day from China, it said.

The department’s travel route chief Erwin Balane said the figure was based around the assumption that the minimum aircraft used would be an Airbus 320, all seats would be taken and all passengers would be Chinese.

“The 45 flights a day from China is on the assumption that all of the passengers are Chinese,” Balane explained.

He said just a third of the 19 million international air passengers arriving in the archipelago each year could be considered tourists.