MANILA, Philippines – Australia is more bullish in their business and trade growth prospects in the country, firms from Down Under said.
Anthony Weymouth, Australian senior trade commissioner to the country, said that it is time for Australia to increase its trade presence in the Philippines.
Two-way trade between the two countries is at AU$3 billion ($2.40 billion) and an estimated 200 Australian companies now have a significant presence in the Philippines, employing 15,000 to18,000 Filipinos, Weymouth said.
These include ANZ Bank and Macquarie, two of the major Australian locators in the country.
The landmark ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZ) also now allows for 95% of Australian products to enter the Philippines duty free while 97% of Philippine-made products can enter Australia with the same benefit.
An increased popularity of Australian products is also seen due to the recent fall of the Aussie dollar.
“It’s basically a 20% price reduction in 3 months,” Weymouth said.
About 15,000 Australians currently reside in the Philippines while about 250,000 Filipinos now call Australia home, Weymouth shared.
Other Australian firms, meanwhile, praised the government efforts to improve the overall environment in doing business in the country.
“We see a country that is really getting its act together,” James Young, country director for Cardno, said. Cardno, a professional infrastructure and environmental services company is involved in some of the important public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects planned for the next few years.
Michael Banak, director of Crone Partners, an architectural firm, confirmed that it is looking for a partner to set up a permanent base in the country.
The firm has been in the Philippines since 2006 and is notable for designing Arya Residences, the country’s first residential building receiving the “green” certifications of Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence (BERDE) and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED). Crone Partners is also designing a 20 hectare master-planned project.
Meanwhile, Site Skills Training based in Clark, Pampanga, is providing training services for construction, gas, mining, and oil. The company is behind Asia’s only simulated underground mine and an offshore platform which it uses to train workers involved in the Malampaya deep water gas-to-power project.
Telstra, a business process outsourcing (BPO) company, is also among locators that employs the highest number of Filipinos in the industry.
Mining a ‘missed opportunity’
When asked about the problems Australian firms face in the country, Weymouth singled out mining as a great “missed opportunity,” saying with significant investment in mining the Philippines could achieve an 8% or 9% gross domestic product (GDP) growth instead of 6%.
The Philippines is one of the most mineral-rich country in the world, but only about 2% of the resources are being extracted, Weymouth said. On the other hand, mining is a significant industry and major contributor to the Australia economy.
“The bottom line is that there are mining projects in places like Mindanao that have the potential for billions of dollars in investment that can raise the GDP by 2% for the next 40 years,” Weymouth said.
The trade commissioner added that Australia would like to see the issues addressed, as it is a big challenge facing Australian mining firms.
Australian mining firm Indophil Resources has a significant stake in the controversial Tampakan project.
(AU$1 = US$0.80)