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More Malaysian investors eyeing Philippines

Publication Date : 28-02-2014


More Malaysian investors are taking a new look at the Philippines after successful peace talks between the administration of President Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and because of the Philippines’ encouraging economic growth, the top Filipino diplomat here has said.

Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya said President Aquino was aiming to stir further investor interest in the Philippines in meeting with local businessmen on Friday at a Business Opportunities Forum arranged alongside his first state visit to Malaysia.

The investment pitch comes alongside the President’s expected talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on pushing forward the Malaysia-brokered peace process, an issue that is “very high” on the agenda for Aquino’s visit.
“I think that they (investors) are looking forward to seeing the President, meeting the President, listening to what he would say, particularly also in the backdrop of this breakthrough in the peace process,” Malaya told reporters on Wednesday night.

“[I]magine the opportunities that would be unlocked with peace in Bangsamoro, and all of these, of course, would further boost the continued growth of the Philippine economy,” he said.

Aquino arrived on Thursday afternoon to begin a two-day state visit on the invitation of Malaysia’s King Abdul Halim.

Typhoon assistance
In his departure statement in Manila, the President said he would personally thank the Malaysians for quickly extending help to the tens of thousands of Filipinos who lost their homes when Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) plowed through central Philippines last November 8.

Malaysia extended $1 million in aid, sent medical and humanitarian assistance teams, and provided relief for the typhoon victims, Aquino said.

He said he would also thank Malaysia for its unwavering support for the Philippines’ search for a peaceful resolution of its territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea, and for brokering peace talks between his administration and the MILF.

Staunch ally
The President described Malaysia as a “staunch ally” of the Philippines in the region, supporting Manila’s stand for a peaceful solution to the maritime dispute with China.

“The (Malaysians) are among those who made a stand for a peaceful and just resolution of the territorial disputes (as stipulated in) the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.

Aquino said he would meet with the Filipino community in Kuala Lumpur.

“We will make sure their needs are [taken care of] and their rights are protected,” he said.

The Malaysian government has launched a crackdown on illegal workers and about 200 Filipinos have been arrested, but quickly released under a voluntary repatriation arrangement with the Philippine government.
Economic opportunities

Aquino said he would meet with Malaysian businessmen to speak to them about the growing Philippine economy and investment opportunities in the country.

“The visit will be an opportunity to tell traders in Malaysia of the progress in the Philippines,” he said.

Executives of top Malaysian companies, including Air Asia, Genting Berhad and Maybank Berhad, are among some 200 businessmen expected to take part in the opportunities forum, scheduled after the President’s bilateral talks with Najib at Malaysia’s administrative center Putrajaya.

Maybank is expected to open 20 new branches in the Philippines while Genting Berhad, which brought the Resorts World entertainment franchise to Manila, is also known to be expanding its presence in the Philippines.

AlloyMTD, a construction company involved in the rehabilitation of the South Luzon Expressway about two years ago, is training its eyes anew on the Philippines and has expressed “interest in a Philippine company,” Malaya said.

Exploring Mindanao
The Philippine government and the MILF last month wrapped up talks on the final annex to the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement in Kuala Lumpur, a development widely welcomed by the international community, as it opened doors to peace and development in fertile but impoverished Mindanao.

Accompanied by Philippine Embassy officials, executives from 13 Malaysian companies toured Cotabato City soon after the signing of the final annex, Malaya said.

The companies, the first group of foreign investors to visit Mindanao since the conclusion of negotiations, were interested in investing in oil palm plantations, rubber, infrastructure development, light manufacturing, tourism, Halal food and agribusiness in Mindanao.

“The Philippines, I think, is getting a lot of notice here in Malaysia because they have seen the unprecedented economic growth taking place in the Philippines,” Malaya said.

“We would like to, in fact, encourage investment not so much in other parts of the Philippines but in Mindanao. So with (investors in) this country being so keenly interested in developments in Mindanao, I am sure a lot of them are looking toward the direction of southern Philippines,” he added.

Malaya said Malaysian companies, particularly those engaged in retail, are also looking at tapping the Philippines’ consumer market, the second-largest in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region.

Malaysia is the Philippines’ 11th top trading partner, with bilateral trade between two countries pegged at $209.42 million as of October 2013.

Philippine exports to Malaysia are valued at $44.94 million while imports are at an estimated $164.49 million, the Philippine Embassy said. - With a report from Michael Lim Ubac


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