MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ most powerful man is also a self-confessed salesman who stands at the forefront when it comes to attracting foreign investors.
“In many ways I am the salesman-in-chief of the Philippines,” President Benigno Aquino III told an audience of local investors, businessmen, government officials and corporate governance advocates on Monday, December 3.
He shared a recent discussion with Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in November in Laos. Aquino said the Norwegian leader “smiled” when he invited Stoltenberg to invest more in the Philippines.
“Their government (Norway) has what they call a Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), which actively seeks places to invest in. Norway has quite a significant investment here already. And because they invested in blue chip stocks that are performing well, it was so easy to elicit a smile from them when we were inviting them to expand these investments,” he said.
The two leaders met in a November 5 bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM9) in Laos. They mainly discussed Norway’s continued role as a facilitator in the peace talks between the government and a rebel group. Norway was also part of the international monitoring team in efforts leading to the landmark 2012 Framework Agreement signed with the Bangsamoro group.
Aquino thanked the trading participants and officials of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) for their efforts that make his “salesman” role easier.
“I must congratulate you on being a part of why it is so much easier to invite investments to our shores. Being bullish on the Philippines is increasingly contagious because our success is based on real fundamentals and not merely snake-oil salesman fantasies,” he said.
He congratulated the PSE officials for the reforms they have pushed and implemented, including the Capital Markets Integrity Corporation (CMIC), a wholly owned subsidiary that monitors the trading activities, detect anomalies and insider trading, and ensures that the rules and regulations are followed.
He also noted that the PSE has extended trading hours, and implemented a system that speeds up trade execution.
He also cited the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for setting up the Investor Protection and Surveillance Department tasked to go against insider trading and other illegal investment schemes, as well as the soon-to-be-finalized Capital Market Development Blueprint. The latter aims to improve and expand the Philippine capital market through investor education and equity market promotion, including online trading.
No longer old-boys’-club
On the recent investment scam involving the Aman Futures Group Philippines Inc., Aquino said the SEC and its partner agencies issued an order to stop the pyramiding firm’s unregistered securities and to put an end to their illicit investment solicitation, which victimized investors from Visayas and Mindanao region.
These above reform efforts for the local capital markets have turned around the previous impression that these investment outlets are only for those that belong to the “old boys’ club.” To highlight this, he shared an advice that his father and namesake, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. gave about investing in the stock market.
“My father used to say: ‘Unless you’re a big boy, don’t play in the stock market. You will only get burned.’ Perhaps this was true in those not-so-distant times. But now, there is true and sustained confidence in the country—built not on rumors, but on genuine performance.”
“Today, confidence is growing, because the market looks at the solidity of listed firms, and no longer worries about impunity on the part of people who think they can pull one over investors. The result is the growing of the stock market itself, as it becomes an increasingly attractive proposition for investors,” he stressed.