2 British diplomats say RP needs to change ‘stagnated’ perception

Published by rudy Date posted on January 16, 2009

Two senior British diplomats yesterday said that the Philippines needs to change the perception that it has “stagnated” and doing business here is difficult compared to other Southeast Asian countries.

John Charles Chick, Trade and Investment director of the British Embassy in Manila, and Tony Collingridge, head of the UK Trade and Investment Team for Asia Pacific Region based in Hong Kong, said countries like the Philippines which restrict foreign ownership and impose very strict regulation on businesses do not attract much foreign investments compared to other Asian countries that open up their markets and are well-regulated.

“I think generally speaking the Philippines has stagnated and the rest in Southeast Asia are driven forward,” Chick said.

Chick cited Vietnam’s economy that is growing fast despite its long history of war.

“The Philippines is competing and the perception of doing business in Vietnam is easier than in the Philippines, but perception is a persuasive form. Companies should have a business plan and perception,” he said.

Although British companies that came to the Philippines have generally done well, the diplomats said the number of these investors is relatively small compared to those going to other Southeast Asian countries.

“Companies are looking at Asia. The Philippines’ problem is China and India, which are two big groups to look at. The Philippines has to project better things for the foreign market to look at them strongly,” Collingridge said.

“Companies have their own issues and the key word is perception. And so it’s important to overcome perceptions. The Philippines needs to project in a positive way,” he added.

The diplomats, however, acknowledged that the Philippines is relatively unaffected by the biggest economic downturn and credit crunch in recent years. They said this should be a strong point for the country.

“The Philippines escaped the credit crunch that hit so many investments because the exposure is limited to less than one percent. This is where the Philippines needs to be selling itself strongly to investors,” Chick said.

According to Collingridge, the UK is the most favored inward investment location in Europe and the world’s fifth largest economy. The UK also attracts around 40 percent of all Japanese, US and Asia investments in the European Union.

The senior diplomat left Manila last night after meeting with British investors and finding out the “real” picture in the Philippines.

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney had said Philippines lags behind the dynamic and fast moving economies in Southeast Asia.

During an annual meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., Kenney had said the Philippines’ problems on corruption and intellectual property rights were the biggest factors why the Philippines could not reap the benefits of economic growth and catch up with fast moving economies in the region.

But in 2007, Washington named the Philippines as one of the top business destinations in Asia as it acknowledged the significant growth in the Philippine economy that had put the country back on the radar screen of the world.

Kenney said the Philippines should sustain its economic growth and maintain good business practices like respecting international laws, protecting intellectual property and working on environmental protection to ensure that investors will keep coming to the country. -– Pia Lee-Brago, Philippine Star

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