Filipino, Japanese businessmen sign 25 deals worth $6B in investments

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President Rodrigo Duterte gets a warm welcome from Japanese officials at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. With him are his partner, Cielito “Honeylet” Avanceña, and daughter Veronica. (Photo from the Presidential Photographers Division)

TOKYO — The Philippines is getting some $6 billion in new investments after Philippine and Japanese businessmen inked at least 25 agreements during President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Tokyo.

“PRRD strengthened our bilateral trade and investment relations,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

He said the business deals involve the manufacturing industry – particularly in the following areas:

  • shipbuilding, iron, steel
  • agribusiness
  • power
  • renewable energy
  • transportation
  • infrastructure
  • mineral processing
  • retailing
  • information and communication technology
  • information technology-business process management

According to Lopez, Duterte met several officials of Japanese companies and witnessed the signing of business-to-business memoranda of understanding and letters of intent on investment plans and expansion of operations in the Philippines.

Incoming presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who joined Duterte’s Japan visit as a lawmaker, said the signing of the business agreements provesd that Philippine-Japan relations continued to be very strong and that Japan remained one of the country’s most active training partners.

Roque believes the Philippines is an attractive destination for the Japanese investors because of the favorable business climate.

“Number one: I think it’s because there’s commercial predictability,” he told reporters. “And number two: There’s peace and order in the Philippines. Of course, there’s conducive business environment where their businesses are unsafe from unjust taking.”

Meanwhile, Lopez also met with his Japanese counterpart, Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko, to discuss the improvement of the market access of Philippine products to Japan and the lowering of tariffs for the county’s agricultural products such as banana, pineapple, and mango.

Lopez said his request to remove the tariffs would still be the subject of future discussions.

“They took note of that and to be discussed in detail in the technical working groups under Jpepa [Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement],” he said.

Filipino fruit producers are hoping for zero tariff for Philippine fruits.

Japan imposes an 8.4 percent tariff for Philippine bananas during the off season, and an 18.4 percent tariff during its fruiting season, in order to protect their farmers.

But Ecuador has been eating into the banana market in Japan because of its zero tariff privilege, according to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

Lopez and the Japanese trade minister also discussed industrial cooperation and the improvement of the supply chain for Japanese companies to benefit small and medium enterprises in the Philippines.

Also tackled was Japan’s support to reach a substantial conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed free trade agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states and Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

During Duterte’s state visit to Japan last year, the Philippines got $1.85 billion in committed investments, which were covered in 12 memorandums of understanding and letters of intent.

There were also $17.2 billion in pledges from Marubeni Corp., one of Japan’s major business conglomerates. These consisted of $3.2 billion worth of short term projects and $14 billion worth of medium to long term projects in mass transport systems, roads and highways, water and power.

During his visit to Manila last January, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a ¥1-trillion package for the Philippines, or around $8.7 billion, consisting of official development assistance and private investments.

These are intended to create business opportunities in the country.

Following Abe’s announcement, the Japan-Philippines Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation was created to coordinate assistance between the two countries.

Japan is the Philippines’ top source of official development assistance, and one of its major trading partners. /atm

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