The past decade saw the Philippines experiencing unprecedented economic growth. Averaging an annual growth rate of 6.2% from 2010 to 2014, the country’s economic performance has been attributed to rising business confidence, with foreign direct investments amounting to a record US$6.8 billion in 2014. Other indicators of the economy’s health, however, are not as rosy. Last year’s growth rate dipped to 5.8%; exports have declined while imports have increased. Moreover, the twin problem of widespread poverty and rising income and wealth inequality remains. As in the past, policymakers’ response to these age-old problems is to call for charter change, partly in order to remove restrictions to foreign investments in the country.
Toward contributing to the discussion on the nature and role of foreign investments in Philippine development, the UP Asian Center, through its Bugkos Research Program, organized a policy forum, “Making Investments Work: Paradigms, Patterns, Prospects,” on 24 November 2016. Presenting at the forum were Dr. Manuel Montes of the South Centre, Geneva, Dr. Josef Yap of the University of the Philippines School of Economics,and Dr. Luis Dumlao of the Ateneo de Manila John Gokongwei School of Management. Mr. Elmer San Pascual, Manager of the Promotions and Public Relations Group of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, and Mr. Nestor P. Arcansalin, Director for Resource-based Industries Service from the Philippine Board of Investments, and served as reactors.
The speakers talked about the current policies and investment flows in selected Southeast Asian countries, as well as the need for better policies to improve corporate governance, industry capacity-building, and infrastructure for Philippine development. Among the more salient points highlighted was the need to strengthen the manufacturing sector and to ensure the distribution of economic gains to small enterprises. The forum also explored the possibility of using the Philippines’ significant dollar reserves as leverage to draw in potential foreign investors to specific industries, sectors, or even projects.
The government reactors discussed the status of investments and development projects in the Philippines, and stressed the government’s commitment to maintaining a foreign investor-friendly business environment while at the same time ensuring the welfare and supporting the development of local players. An open forum after the presentations touched on the flexibility of land usefor foreign investments even within the framework of the Constitution, measures to raise productivity (e.g., mineral processing agreements), and the need for stronger linkages between investors and domestic small and medium-size enterprises.
At the forum were representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry, Small Enterprises Research and Development Foundation, the House of Representatives, Action for Economic Reforms, Focus on the Global South, and other private and government agencies as well as faculty members and students of UP and other universities.
The UP Asian Center offers M.A. programs in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D. program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Get an overview of these programs. The Asian Center also houses a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia. It has published several books and monographs, and hosts or organizes various lectures and conferences.