Duterte gov't assures PH economic policies 'predictable'
MANILA, Philippines – Investors need not worry about "diminished" predictability in the Philippines' economic policies due to President Rodrigo Duterte's public statements, said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Lopez sought to dispel such fears after international credit rating agency Standard & Poor's said Duterte's policy pronouncements contribute to the diminishment of the "stability and predictability" of policymaking in the country.
"Hindi po unpredictable (It's not unpredictable)," said Lopez on Thursday, September 23, during a Palace press briefing.
"In my view, policy-making has not changed...The policy to honor all contracts, agreements, policy to protect investments, they are here," he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
Lopez said that despite Duterte's aggressive rhetoric against the United States and the European Union, important trade partners of the Philippines, the President strongly supports the honoring of economic agreements with all countries.
"All our foreign trade agreements, they are all being honored. Our commitments to ASEAN, WTO, APEC, all of these, they stay. And in fact, we are even strengthening it," said Lopez.
He was referring to agreements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, World Trade Organization, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
In fact, Lopez said he had just met with the European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen to discuss a new foreign trade agreement (FTA) with the EU.
Duterte's recent cursing at the European Parliament was not discussed during the meeting.
"There’ll be another round, and hopefully we can finalize an FTA with the EU. To us, that will mean more access of Philippine products to the EU market," said Lopez.
Economic fundamentals 'look good'
To investors getting nervous about the Philippine economy, Lopez gave the assurance that "everything seems to be working well in terms of economic fundamentals."
He gave the following statistics as proof:
- Manufacturing growth at 8.1% compared to 4.1% in past 5 years
- Foreign investment growth over 100% from January to July 2016
- Board of Investments registered investment growth at 93%
- Economic growth rate at 7%
- Foreign exchange reserves close to $80 billion
- Inflation rate at 1.9%
Lopez belied fears that the Duterte presidency is endangering the Philippine economy. He even said Duterte himself is pushing for investor-friendly policies listed in his economc team's "10-point economic agenda."
"Not a lot of people know that the President is behind us in pushing for economic reforms. Policies for streamlining, helping micro, small, and medium enterprises have his push," said the Trade Secretary.
Some gains on this front include a joint memorandum circular to ensure business permits are processed in two days, instead of the current 8-to-10-day average. The memo was signed by the Department of Interior and Local Government and DTI.
"In fact, when the President heard that, he said, 'Let's strengthen it. If you want, we can issue an EO (executive order)," shared Lopez.
The same day, Duterte said he couldn't care less if investment credit agencies said his public pronouncements may harm the economy. In the same breath, he invited nervous foreign investors to leave the country.
But from January to July this year, Lopez said foreign investments have more than doubled. More investors are expected to confirm their investments in the second half of the year.
"There is confidence in the new administration. In fact, we expect more applications. We are talking to a lot of investors. Some are indicating to come in and to confirm their investment, this second half. Recently, there is even a Polish investment, first time in the Philippines," he said.
As early as the 2016 campaign season, Duterte admitted he is not an expert in the economy and leaves economic policies to his advisers. – Rappler.com
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