THE Philippines’ investment environment is less attractive than it can be due to “inconsistent” rules that change with every administration, businesses said.
At the 49th Philippine Business Conference and Expo, San Miguel Corp.-Infrastructure Chief Financial Officer Raoul Eduardo C. Romulo said both Philippine and foreign investors want the rules governing their entry into any market to be predictable and consistent.
“What we should concentrate on and ask the government to continue to concentrate on is predictability in our investment guidelines (and) predictability in following all the necessary steps,” Mr. Romulo said.
“If we can have our information technology infrastructure in place, streamline government bureaucracy and continue the cooperation between government and the private sector, all of these ingredients will (position) us for a better future for the Philippines,” he added.
Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, president and chief executive officer of Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc., said uncertain policy is a concern continually being raised by investors.
“(To which) we continue to say that no they don’t change, maybe there is emphasis given to certain areas, but it is basically the same,” said Mr. Ortiz-Luis. “And I think they (are starting) to believe that and our problem now is to convince them,” he added.
Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines David Hartman said that Canadian businesses are pleased to see the government making strides towards liberalization.
“The positive trajectory that we see here really excites us in Canada because it makes us conscious of how much economic opportunity there is here,” Mr. Hartman told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the event.
“But of course, having predictability, stability, and clear and transparent rules are always in the best interest of businesses,” he added.
John Goyer, executive director for Southeast Asia of the US Chamber of Commerce, said complaints with regard to ease of doing business are common issues brought up within the chamber membership.
“We have heard complaints like that in the past. So, I think, clearly, it continues to be a problem,” he told BusinessWorld. “And I think that we would continue to encourage the Philippines to streamline investment procedures, approvals, licensing, all of the red tape associated with making an investment.”
“The easier, the more transparent and the more certain that process can be made, the more attractive the Philippines becomes,” he added.
SMC Infrastructure’s Mr. Romulo said that in order to address the inconsistencies, he would like to see a long-term plan that is consistently followed.
“What we’d like to see is a government roadmap of let’s say 20 to 25 years. I think there is one, but it should be consistent and that even if the administration changes, the priorities should remain the same,” he added. — Justine Irish D. Tabile