By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Regardless of the outcome of the second package of the government’s comprehensive tax reform measure, Australian businesses will continue to invest in the Philippines as they cannot afford to miss out on the strong economic potential in the country, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson said.
“I think irrespective of what happens with TRAIN legislation there will be more Australian companies that will locate here. I think the prospects of the Philippines is so good and I continue to advocate that Australian business to come here in larger numbers,” Robinson told reporters covering the Makati Business Club General Membership Meeting yesterday where the ambassador was the guest speaker.
What is important, he said, is that reforms progressed to provide more clarity and consistency because that is more fundamental for business.
“We just want the legislation to progress,” he said.
To buttress Australian companies’ bullish outlook on the Philippines, the Ambassador cited a recent survey where Australian businesses identified the Philippines as their favorite destination among ASEAN countries in the next five years.
He also cited the over 300 Australian companies in the Philippines employing more than 44,000 Filipinos. There are also 12,600 Filipino students in Australia.
In his speech, the ambassador noted of the security issue in Mindanao, particularly in Marawi where Australia has provided A$24 million for humanitarian and long-term peace building programs in Marawi devastated by the siege caused by the terrorist groups that attacked the city.
But he also stressed that the security issue in the country, particularly Mindanao, is not the biggest concern at all for Australian firms in the country noting that the situation is manageable. He cited the Human Security Act, which passage could be the basis for the lifting of the Martial Law in Mindanao.
On the security issue, the ambassador said, “If we work together and cooperate with southeast Asia and Australia continues to support as with other countries together with the Philippines security then we will be able to work and manage the situation. This is a good place to be in so am very positive about the future.”
“Australian companies are very keen to do more because of the enormous opportunities in the Philippines in the last few years and last decade,” said Robinson as he cited the 18 quarters of continued over 6 percent GDP growth in the Philippines and sustained 6 percent GDP growth projection by the IMF in the next ten years.
“We would like to be part of it. The future is very bright,” he said.
The ambassador cited the increasing two-way trade between the two countries with Australia becoming the Philippines 14th major trading partner. As of 2017, bilateral trade reached A$4.7 billion. Total Australian investment stock in the Philippines also hit A$9.7 billion.
MBC Trustee Jose L. Cuisia Jr. said that through the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, which was signed in 2009, by next year, all Philippine merchandise exports, will enjoy zero tariffs. Majority of these products are electrical machinery, consumer electronics and processed food.