The Philippine Star 02/24/2005
More Japanese investments, trade opportunities seen
By Marianne V. Go
More Japanese investments and trade opportunities are expected to pour into the country following a recent visit from one of Japan’s biggest trade groups - the Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren), Trade and Industry Secretary Juan B. Santos said yesterday.
According to Santos, the Kankeiren mission proved that Japanese businessmen are very interested to do business in the Philippines and that the country is a profitable site for economic ventures.
"The recent mission is an endorsement to other foreign firms that are considering locating or expanding their business in the country," Santos said.
Aside from acknowledging the advantages of the Philippines as an investment destination, the Kankeiren delegation also stressed the importance of the forthcoming realization of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) which would greatly increase the incentive for Japanese investments and pave the way for more bilateral trade.
The planned free trade accord would affect mainly industrial and agricultural products but would also include services as well as proposals to allow more Filipino nurses and caregivers to work in Japan to minister to its ageing population.
Santos agreed that the JPEPA would help efforts to make the Philippines the ASEAN business partner of choice for Japan.
The major elements of the JPEPA were already agreed upon in principle by President Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last Nov. 29, 2004.
Looking forward to the signing of the JPEPA, the Kankeiren companies are placing their bets and getting a head start in exploring the business environment and opportunities here in the Philippines.
The delegation met with President Arroyo in Malacañang and assured the chief executive of their continued support for the country.
Kankeiren Chairman Masayuki Matsushita said that the rising cost of doing business in China and other ASEAN countries opens an opportunity for the Philippines to capture a bigger share of foreign direct investments (FDI) "The Japanese business sentiment remains very positive in the country and it further encourages the government to align and adjust policies to sustain the country’s position as the preferred business location and platform of operations for Japanese companies and other foreign ventures," Santos said.
He pointed out that the country’s best comparative strength remains the world-class skills of Filipino workers.
In 2004, Japanese businesses had invested some P25.377-billion in the country’s manufacturing and service industries which include information technology (IT), software development, electronics, chemical products, communications equipment, automotive parts, health care programs and others.
"Japan is one of the country’s most important business partners and we will continuously support Japanese firms in their endeavors," Santos said.
The government has adopted measures to make the country more attractive to foreign investments.
These include promoting macroeconomic stability, providing better infrastructure and support facilities, and encouraging the growth of support businesses to provide locally sourced parts and supplies to investing companies, Santos said.
The Kankeiren delegation also showed interest in the country’s mining industry and recommended that the Philippines should mount an investment promotion mission to Japan.
The members of the mission are drawn from various Kansai-based businesses and organizations.
Most of these corporations already operate in the country through their local subsidiaries such as Mitsubishi Corp., Matsushita, Marubeni, Sanyo and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).
Japan is one of the country’s top sources of foreign direct investments and the largest export market. Japan accounts for for more than 20 percent of the country’s total shipments.
In 2004, exports to Japan registered an uptrend of 38.1 percent at $7.963-billion.