Germany to expand investments in Manila

Berlin - The good business climate under the Aquino administration has prompted Germany to expand its business interests in the country, Philippine Ambassador to Germany Maria Cleofe Rayos Natividad said.

Natividad also revealed that current German investments in the country are doing well despite strained bilateral relations caused by the still unresolved Fraport issue.

''German investments are doing very well, and German companies have expanded their businesses. A number of companies have said and have been giving testimonials that the Philippines has so much potential, a fantastic investment place because of the excellent manpower, the beauty of the country and the same values we shared. They feel at home, and comfortable dealing with the Filipinos,'' Natividad said.

To keep the bilateral relations going, Germany and the Philippines are both flexing their muscles to expeditiously resolve the Fraport issue, said Natividad, who expressed optimism of its early resolution as both counties are showing ''strong political will'' to settle it.

''I am hopeful that we could settle this issue, which is an unnecessary irritant in the relations between the two countries. There is political will on both sides to solve it,'' she said in an interview with this reporter, who is part of the two- month long Asia-Pacific journalists' fellowship program of the Internationale Journalisten Programme (IJP).

Natividad, who was conferred the ''Gawad Mabini Award'' with the Rank of Dakilang Kamanong (Grand Cross) last year by President Benigno S. Aquino III for her ''economic diplomacy'' campaign, admitted that because of the Fraport issue, the bilateral ties between the Philippines and Germany ''have been very quite.''

''But, now there is growing realization, which was also validated by both German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario that we have other areas of collaboration and cooperation and they desire to move the relations. Both sides realized it is not the sum total of relations,'' she added.

Despite the issue, Natividad said Germany cannot just ignore the Aquino government's anti-corruption drive and the country's strong economic fundamentals as well as the Philippines' active engagement in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

''The President's seriousness in making the country business friendly has been taken into account by the German government. The strong economic fundamentals are now in some place, something they cannot ignore,'' Natividad, the former Consul General in Frankfurt, said.

''The very rich partnership between the Philippines and Germany goes long way back. We are back on our feet and the Embassy is confident that we have robust relations with Germany,'' Natividad said.

Fraport is the German firm-partner of the Philippine International Airport Terminals Co. (Piatco), the consortium that got the contract to build and operate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA 3). The contract, however, was aborted in 2002 by the Arroyo government.
With the Philippine government's move, Fraport sought a relief from World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes and filed a compensation case, citing that such action was in violation of a bilateral investment treaty between the Philippines and Germany.
A damage claim was filed by Piatco before the Singapore-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which then sided with the Philippines. To pursue the claim, Piatco filed an appeal before the Singapore High Court, which thumbed it down.

Despite the Fraport issue, Natividad said the German businesses have been expanding in the Philippines, saying Germany is seeing the country as a good investment niche.

Considered as the country's largest trading partner in the European Union bloc, Germany had direct investments in the Philippines amounting to $21.7 million 2011. Germany is also the biggest source of tourists for the Philippines in Europe with 61,193 arrivals for the same year.
During his visit to the Philippines last February, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle noted that the trade between Berlin and Manila had grown more than 20 percent in 2012 and is expected to grow more as both parties want to exploit many business opportunities.

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