Singapore firms upbeat on Philippines

People kicking back amid activity going on in the port area of Manila Bay. Singapore firms have invested in port operations, ship-building and hotels in the Philippines.
People kicking back amid activity going on in the port area of Manila Bay. Singapore firms have invested in port operations, ship-building and hotels in the Philippines.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Businesses have faith in S-E Asia's fastest growing economy despite militant problems

Singapore companies remain upbeat about growth prospects in the Philippines, despite the conflict in the southern city of Marawi and creeping Islamist extremism that has forced President Rodrigo Duterte to place Mindanao island under martial law.

"We look at business prospects in the long term. Ultimately, we do look at the long-term fundamentals of the Philippines, and the signs are all positive," Philippine-Singapore Business Council (PSBC) co-chair Loh Chin Hua said at a news briefing in Manila.

Mr Loh, who is chief executive officer of Keppel Corporation, said the "report card" on the Philippines "gives a very good validation why the Philippines will become a very important economy, and also a good destination for businesses".

"Singapore companies will gain by staying engaged," he added.

The Philippines was ranked last month by Fitch Ratings as Southeast Asia's fastest-growing economy - a crown the agency said it is likely to hold for the next five years.

It said the Philippines will grow at an average of 6.6 per cent for the next five years, ahead of Vietnam's 6.1 per cent, Indonesia's 5.1 per cent, and Singapore's 2.9 per cent.

A 24-member team from 17 Singapore companies visited Manila and Davao this week. The delegates represent companies in port management, real estate, architecture, services, technology and food and beverage, among others.

SIGNS ALL POSITIVE

Ultimately, we do look at the long-term fundamentals of the Philippines, and the signs are all positive.

PHILIPPINE-SINGAPORE BUSINESS COUNCIL CO-CHAIR LOH CHIN HUA.

The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) teamed up with International Enterprise Singapore and the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre to organise the mission.

Singapore is the Philippines' fourth largest trading partner; total trade between the two countries came to $4.4 billion last year. In a 2016-2017 SBF National Business Survey, the Philippines was the seventh most popular market for SBF member companies.

Singapore firms have invested in port operations, ship-building as well as hotels in the Philippines.

The optimism among Singapore companies comes as Philippine troops battle Muslim militants who stormed Marawi in May in the name of the ultra-radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The resulting uncertainty has led to a 63 per cent drop in investment pledges for Mindanao from January to June.

Mr Guillermo Luchangco, who co-chairs the PSBC, remarked: "From the Philippine perspective, we don't see the Marawi conflict as being a threat nationally."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore firms upbeat on Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe