Philippines Targets Billions From Middle East in Investment Push


By Siegfrid Alegado

Clarissa Batino

The Philippines is training its sight on billions of dollars of investment from the Middle East.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority, which oversees hundreds of industrial parks offering tax perks, is identifying sites that can stock Qatar’s oil reserves and land that can be planted with crops for export to the United Arab Emirates after receiving proposals, Director General Charito Plaza, 58, said in an interview. The potential investment is billions of dollars, she said.

“The Middle East market is untapped,” Plaza, a former lawmaker and a military reserve officer with a rank of brigadier general, said on Nov. 8 after a 12-day working trip overseas. “With President (Rodrigo) Duterte’s independent foreign policy, we are now open to everybody.”

The Philippines, which receives the lowest foreign direct investment among major Southeast Asian nations, is preparing swathes of land for manufacturing, tourism, farming and mining while areas for potential reclamation are also pinpointed, Plaza said in her office in Manila. Officials are readying a map by early 2017 to show investment destinations in each region, she said.

The recent investment roadshows included Qatar, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Plaza said. The government plans other roadshows in untapped markets like Russia and Iran, she said. Companies operating in Philippine economic zones include American, Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese and Dutch.

Faltering Investment

Duterte’s repeated attacks against the U.S. are starting to scare some investors with the nation’s electronics and semiconductor industry warning some American companies are holding off investing in the Philippines. PEZA-approved investment fell 38 percent in the first 10 months of the year to 107.34 billion pesos ($2.2 billion).

Plaza, who campaigned for Duterte in elections this year, said she hasn’t received any complaints among foreign investors and assured that “no one is pulling out.”

“President Duterte has his own war against drugs,” Plaza said. “We have our own war against unemployment and inequality.”


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