DTI Bullish On Foreign Investments

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines said it aims to boost foreign direct investments in call centers, factories and shipyards to more than $10 billion a year, as President Benigno Aquino strives to create jobs and bolster growth.

The Philippines received 24 business teams in the first half of the year from countries including Russia, Turkey and Japan, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo said. Investors are keen on shipbuilding, agriculture, energy, steel, garments, and business process outsourcing, he said.

The $10 billion FDI target coincides with the goal set earlier this year by the Board of Investments, which is chaired by Domingo, to generate P400 billion this year. The BOI target is supported by the 2012 Investment Priorities Plan, which identifies 13 preferred economic activities that are granted a package of tax incentives by the government.

This year's IPP comprises a total of 13 preferred economic activities including agriculture/agribusiness and fishery, creative industries/knowledge-based services, shipbuilding, mass housing, iron and steel, energy, infrastructure and PPP, research & development, green projects, hospital and medical services projects, motor vehicles, strategic projects, and disaster prevention and recovery projects.

"The biggest thing that has improved our standing in the investment community globally has been President Aquino's governance," Domingo said in an interview in his office in Manila yesterday.

Aquino is winning confidence from investors and rating companies as he fights corruption and boosts infrastructure spending to transform the nation into a manufacturing hub in the region. Moody's Investors Service boosted its outlook on the Philippines to positive in May, when the country's top judge was impeached for illegally concealing his wealth, while Standard & Poor's this month raised the long-term foreign currency- denominated debt rating to the highest level since 2003.

The $225 billion economy expanded 6.4 percent in the first quarter, the fastest pace since 2010, and the peso is the best performer against the U.S. dollar among Asia's 11 most-traded currencies this year, having gained about 5 percent. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index surged to a record this month.

"When he first assumed office, there were still a lot of people who doubted he will really pursue" good governance, Domingo said. "But now, he has convinced everybody that he is sincere. We've seen tremendous interest in investment."

From 1970 to 2010, the Philippines drew $33.98 billion in foreign direct investment compared to $322.13 billion for Singapore and $108.87 billion for Thailand, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The Philippines lured about $6 billion in pledged foreign investments last year, and has drawn commitments from companies including Glencore International Plc and Gazasia Ltd. this year. Business groups from Mexico and Argentina are due to visit the country, Domingo said yesterday.