Manila, Philippines – Coinciding with the official start of the campaign season for the upcoming 2016 presidential elections, the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) of the Philippines launched on Tuesday, February 9, the 5th Arangkada Philippines forum, with the theme “A Bolder and More Inclusive Decade.”
Julian Payne, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CanCham) of the Philippines, said that this forum will be different, particularly because it will be happening in the thick of the Philippine national elections. “It will be held at the end of the [Aquino] administration, and at the beginning of new one—we don’t know yet who are the leaders who will implement these reforms,” noted Payne.
The overall aim of the forum is to develop bold reforms that can produce sustained inclusive growth in the Philippines for the next decade. “Through this forum, we can get bold ideas to improve inclusive growth in the Philippines. The money is in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region and the Philippines can get more FDIs (foreign direct investments) through bold reforms,” said John Forbes, senior adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham) for The Arangkada Philippines Project.
Ryan Evangelista, executive director of the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCham) in the Philippines, added that policy reforms are needed in order for the Philippines to fully take advantage of its free trade agreements with different economies. “We need to reform to get more from these engagements with broader markets,” Evangelista said.
Arangkada Philippines is an advocacy of the JFC to increase foreign direct investment (FDI) and employment in the Philippines by September 2016. It is funded through a $1 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and is facilitated by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham). The forum, with the theme focusing on the long-term goals for the Philippine economy, will be held on March 1, 2016 at the Marriott Grand Ballroom.
The JFC, in turn, is a coalition of the American, Australian-New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese, Korean chambers of commerce in the Philippines, together with the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Headquarters, Inc. It represents more than 3,000 member companies in the Philippines, and promotes open international trade and increased foreign direct investment, especially in infrastructure.
According to JFC, the Philippines needs bold reforms in six key areas, first of which is to increase total FDIs to above that of the ASEAN-6 average. ASEAN-6 refers to the older and more economically advanced members of ASEAN, namely Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines.
The Philippines also needs reforms to reduce its unemployment and underemployment rates below that of the ASEAN-6 average. Possible policy reforms that can reduce poverty, modernize infrastructure, raise competitiveness ratings, minimize bureaucracy, and maximize good governance will also be discussed in the forum on March 1.
The 5th Arangkada Philippines Forum will feature more than 45 speakers, panelists, and moderators who will talk about the different areas which the JFC considers as the “7 Big Winner Sectors,” namely: Agribusiness; IT-Business Process Management; Creative Industries; Infrastructure; Manufacturing and Logistics; Mining; and Tourism, Medical Travel, and Retirement.
Notable speakers to watch out for are Supreme Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senator Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV, and former Finance Secretary and now Philippine Veterans Bank Chairman Roberto de Ocampo.
Former NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) director-general and newly-appointed chief of the Philippine Competition Commission Arsenio Balicasan will also be there to discuss the “Filipino 2040” plan.
The JFC has also invited President Benigno Aquino III, together with the 2016 presidentiables, to share their ideas for policy reforms that the next administration can take on to promote inclusive growth in the Philippines for the next decade.