Manufacturing sector beckons to Japanese firms

BusinessMirror | By Elijah Felice Rosales – 

TRADE officials have pitched to Japanese manufacturing firms the advantage of expanding operations in the Philippines, as the government looks to secure more commitments from its top source of foreign investments.

In an investment road show in Japan last week, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez urged an audience of more than 400 firms to do business in the Philippines. He claimed now is the best time to invest here, with the administration pursuing several economic reforms, including the passage of the ease of doing business law, the rollout of the “Build, Build, Build” program and the liberalization of various industries.

“The Philippines is on an economic breakout. It is the perfect time to invest and do business in our country, which has a 6.8-percent GDP growth and an 8-percent growth in [the] manufacturing industry,” Lopez said.

He conveyed his intent to tap Japan in the government’s bid to revive manufacturing and link it with agriculture and services under the Inclusive Innovation Industrial Strategy. Under the i3s, the government listed 12 priority industries it intends to develop, of which five are covered by manufacturing: electronics, automotive, shipbuilding, aerospace and furniture.

Japan fits the picture, Lopez argued, as it is the country’s top source of offshore investment pledges. Its commitments to the Board of Investments and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority expanded to P12.75 billion in January to May, up by 286 percent, from P3.3 billion during the same period last year.

“We are very keen on engaging with Japan, especially on the aspect of manufacturing and innovation, and how we can work together to strengthen not only manufacturing, but the MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises] in their value chain, as well,” Lopez added.

The trade chief also told car parts makers they are assured of a site should they decide to operate in the Philippines. “We have identified opportunities for Japanese [automobile parts] makers to locate around the Toyota and Mitsubishi manufacturing plants in Laguna,” he said.

According to Lopez, the country’s geographical position in Southeast Asia is advantageous for investors. He said it serves as an entry point to a region of over 600 million people, as well as access to the markets of the region’s neighboring countries.

In a separate roundtable, Lopez advised Kenji Kawano, president of Tsuneishi Shipbuilding Company Ltd., to locate one of his expansions in the City of Iligan. He said this will generate jobs for people in the area that is near Marawi City, the once-progressive Islamic city that local terrorists influenced by the Islamic State laid siege to for five months last year.

A delegation of trade officials and business executives, headed by Lopez, was in Japan last week to establish stronger investment ties with manufacturing firms there. The delegation also had meetings with Japanese government officials and business owners.