Philippines ready for business with Malaysia: Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivering a message upon his arrival at the Davao International Airport on November 11, 2016 from state visits to Thailand and Malaysia. (Manila Bulletin

During his arrival at the Davao International Airport Friday from his visit to Malaysia, the President announced that Malaysian business leaders expressed confidence in the many investment opportunities in the Philippines. He said business leaders showed interest in investing in infrastructure, mass transportation development, building of regional centers, joint ventures in agribusiness, halal-certified products, and high value post-harvest processing facilities.

With this development, the President directed Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez to follow through and ensure trade and investment with Malaysia, whom the President said is the country’s 10th largest trade partner because of its continued growth. 

“With Malaysia, we committed to explore all available options to ensure greater collaboration in the joint coordinated pursuit, the interdiction, and the arrest of criminal and terrorist plying the waterways between our countries,” he said in his arrival speech. He said Malaysia will continue to be the country’s partner for growth and development and emphasized on other areas of mutual interests. “I strive to enhance our relation with our neighboring countries and explore more opportunities to further advance the best interests of our nation,” he said. This also includes efforts to address criminality on land, at sea and between borders and the commitment to achieve just and lasting peace in Mindanao where Malaysia will continue to play an important role. 

The Chief Executive also declared the Philippines is ready to work with Malaysia and partners interested in securing the future of generations of the Mindanaoans and Filipinos “As incoming chair of ASEAN, we count on Malaysia’s support for our efforts to build a stronger, rule-based and people-centered ASEAN,” he stressed. 

Earlier, Lopez said Malaysia’s interest are on the areas of building further the Halal industry, strengthening of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines (BIMP) cooperation, agri-business joint undertakings, particularly in the areas of palm oil and natural rubber. Initial discussions with the Minister of Trade of Malaysia and a meeting with the Malaysia — Philippines Business Council headed by their President Dr. Tan Sri Azmil Khalid, the President and CEO of one of the largest infrastructure company with existing projects in the country, Lopez said. There are current investments like the Investment Promotion Agency with approved investment of about USD63 million. 

Malaysia has billions of investments abroad and the Philippines is getting only a few of these investments, Lopez said. “With this strengthening of ties, we expect more investments, more joint venture, undertakings to take place with our Malaysian partners,” he said, adding that there were indications from the private sector of entering into some MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding). “This is basically a private to private enterprise agreement and they’re talking of an infrastructure project,” he said. However, he said he was not at liberty to reveal any undertakings of the private sector.  He however, underscored the willingness of the companies to put a stake in the current administration in terms of supporting development goals in infrastructure, agri-business.

Lopez said the President is keen promoting more the agri-business projects with the country’s potential oil palm project areas in Mindanao and Palawan. He said Malaysians are looking at 80,000 or 200-300 hectares down the road.