Investors told: Better days ahead for economy

“YOU ain’t seen nothing yet.”

With these words, President Benigno Aquino III told participants in the 4th Euromoney Philippines Investment Forum that better days are ahead for the Philippine economy.

“Every year, without fail, I receive an invitation to speak at this forum, and every year, without fail, I accept. The first Philippines Investment Forum took place about a year and a half into my presidency. Since then, this has become a valuable opportunity for me to share the progress our country has made. Here, we have been able to trace the success story that is the Philippine economy,” Aquino said.

He again complained that the good news about the economy was often “relegated to the back pages” of newspapers, and said the administration was still trying to change the mindset that “negativism sells.”

The President said 2014 was a banner year for net foreign direct investments, which reached a all-time high of $6.2 billion, 65.9 percent higher than 2013.

From 2010 to 2013, he said, the Philippines averaged a 6.3 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP), compared to the previous three-year period under his predecessor, at 4.3 percent.

Despite the lingering effects of typhoon Yolanda and the uncertainty in the global economy the country still posted a 6.1 percent growth in GDP last year, Aquino added.

The Philippines was also upgraded to investment grade by all three major international credit ratings agencies in 2013, and has continued to receive upgrades since, Aquino said.

“We are indeed making history. All these, and many other factors, have led to even greater optimism for our country’s prospects. Just to give you one example: Bloomberg recently reported, I’m told, that the Philippines is forecasted to be the world’s second fastest growing economy in 2015,” the President said.

He said the tremendous amount of confidence the global community has developed for the Philippines was gratifying, considering that not too long ago, the country was regarded as the “Sick Man of Asia.”

Aquino said his administration continues to work hard to maximize every opportunity available.

“I think many of you will agree with me when I say: You ain’t seen nothing yet,” the President said.

Infrastructure, he said, greatly benefited from the government drive to become more competitive.

Through the efforts of the Department of Public Works and Highways, corruption has been “vastly minimized, if not eradicated,” and projects are now regularly completed ahead of time and under budget, he said.

The department’s budget had tripled, from P165 billion in 2010 to almost P570 billion in 2015, the President said.

“We can expect this to grow even more, as our goal is to have infrastructure spending comprise 5 percent of GDP by 2016,” he said.

The President also highlighted the government’s efforts to spur infrastructure through its public-private partnership (PPP) program, with nine awarded projects, 16 in the process of being bid out, and 30 more in various stages of development.

In contrast, he said, the last three administrations had only completed six PPP projects.

The President also assured investors that his government was persuing ways to address a projected shortfall in power this summer.

He said the government was expediting the rehabilitation of the 300 MW Malaya Thermal Power Plant Unit 1 to help augment power supply in Luzon.

He also said partnerships with the private sector under the Interruptible Load Program would produce an extra 688.67 megawatts during times when power supply is tight.

Aquino said 48 committed power projects would produce 4,693.6 megawatts of power between now and 2018. Out of these, 21 will be from renewable energy, in line with the goal of diversifying the country’s energy mix.

Aquino said these efforts were even more crucial with the expected ASEAN integration later this year. The ASEAN Economic Community, he added, would be a formidable economic force.

In closing, Aquino told potential investors: “I invite you: Bet on the Filipino people, and discover for yourself how it’s more fun and more profitable to do business in the Philippines.”

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