MANILA, March 4 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines has put "pro-business" measures to lure foreign investors into the Southeast Asian country recovering from the two-year COVID-19 pandemic.
"Visit us and witness the recovery and revival of many of our enterprises as we have now allowed greater mobility, greater opening of the economy, and thanks to our high vaccination rate," Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a recent speech.
Philippine officials tagged the country as "a premier investment destination" where foreign companies can invest in "areas with excellent growth potential," saying it is the time to do business in the Philippines that is returning to new normal, with the economy expected to expand between 7 and 9 percent.
The government has downgraded the pandemic restrictions in Metro Manila and 38 other areas to alert level 1, the lowest at a scale of 5, from March 1 to 15 as the COVID-19 transmission slowed and the hospitalization rate declined.
It also allowed the entry of fully vaccinated travelers from 157 countries and regions with visa-free arrangements, after almost two years of travel bans and border closure.
"Our economy is recovering rapidly," Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez told investors in a recent forum attended by business leaders and policymakers.
He added that even with the pandemic, the government focused on instituting reforms to boost foreign direct investment to speed up the economic recovery, referring to several business acts that favor foreign investment in public service.
The Philippine economy had witnessed its longest decline since the second quarter of 2020, shrinking by 9.6 percent in 2020 before growing by 5.6 percent in 2021. The revival makes "the country's expansion the highest in the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region and among its credit peers globally."
Despite challenges from the pandemic, Manila and Beijing, its key trading partner, have kept their economies open for each other.
As early as November last year, Trade Undersecretary and Board of Investments (BOI) Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo has sounded off to Chinese investors to "expand and diversify" further their businesses in the Philippines.
Rodolfo said the Philippines has one of the largest deposits for both nickel and cobalt, the key ingredients for making lithium-ion batteries. He also highlighted investments in energy storage products such as electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy battery banks.
Last year, the BOI had greenlighted two Chinese projects in the field of motorcycle assembly and bicycle assembly, including electronic ones. "The Philippines, similar to other countries, is experiencing a surge in demand for this solo mobility type of transportation equipment," Rodolfo said.
Rodolfo also promoted investment opportunities in health-related products, a booming industry in the Philippines due to a supply chain for manufacturing.
Another investment area for the Philippines is the Business-Processing Outsources, particularly animation, contact center, game development, global shared services, healthcare, IT and software development activities.
The BOI recorded 655.4 billion pesos (roughly 12.6 billion U.S. dollars) worth of investment approvals from 235 projects in 2021, increasing foreign investments by 218 percent despite the setbacks brought by the persisting pandemic.
"This goes to show that the pandemic did not stop the flow of foreign investments into the country, and we are looking forward to getting more in 2022," Trade Secretary and BOI Chairman Lopez said. ■