Philippines woos Japan investors over infrastructure projects

Kyodo

The Philippine government promoted its Public-Private Partnership program at a gathering of potential Japanese investors in Manila, at a seminar organized by the Japan External Trade Organization.

“Now is the time to consider taking advantage of investment opportunities in the Philippines” thanks to the business and state policies of President Benigno Aquino, the country’s socioeconomic planning chief, Cayetano Paderanga, said Friday at the JETRO seminar.

“It is our hope that the partnership between the Philippines and Japan will continue to flourish as we seek to improve and develop our country’s infrastructure,” he said, adding that the Japan International Cooperation Agency for the past 10 years has been Manila’s biggest source of development aid, especially in terms of infrastructure-related funding.

The one-day JETRO seminar was organized on the theme of “Japanese Contribution to Philippine Infrastructure Development,” and held amid the Philippines’ growing need for Japanese construction and development expertise to expand its infrastructure.

JETRO’s executive director in Manila, Ryoichi Ito, said about 300 participants representing a variety of companies attended the seminar. About 100 of the firms were from Japan, another 100 were Japanese companies based in the Philippines, while the rest were local Filipino corporations.

“In this seminar . . . advanced technologies are going to be introduced, including the necessary knowhow, best practices and case studies for PPP promotion,” said Hideichi Okada, Japan’s vice minister for international affairs at the trade and industry ministry.

Okada said the resilience of Japan’s bullet trains and water pipes in the earthquake and tsunami that struck Tohoku last year underlined the country’s infrastructure expertise.

“I’m hoping this seminar will provide many opportunities for the two countries to cooperate in building disaster-resilient infrastructure in the Philippines. I’m sure that such contribution will enhance the economic relationship between Japan and the Philippines,” he said.

According to Paderanga, the socioeconomic planning chief, the Philippines has 16 infrastructure projects in various stages of development that are in need of private-sector investment. They include airport, road, rail and water projects throughout the country.

But Toru Tsuji of the Japan-Philippine Economic Cooperation Committee urged the Philippine government to first address its power supply and energy costs, improve logistics facilities, enhance taxation policies for foreign investors, and ensure law and order to encourage more private investors to participate in projects.

But he added that the Philippines has huge potential compared with some of its Southeast Asian neighbors because of its large, hardworking and English-speaking labor force.

PPP Center Executive Director Cosette Canilao said Manila will examine the issues Tsuji raised, but maintained that there is already “huge interest” from the Japanese private sector in the projects.