Europe-PH News

'Arangkada' Gains Noted But Much Still Has To Be Done -- Joint Foreign Chambers

April 11, 2011

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines

Europe-PH News

THE AQUINO GOVERNMENT is moving to address issues that have held back growth but a great deal still needs to be done, monitoring by the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC) has showed.

The organization's Arangkada Philippines 2010 workshop last March 31 found that at least one proposal for five of seven "big winner" sectors had been acted upon in the four months since an advocacy paper was submitted to President Benigno S. C Aquino III.

The JFC's Arangkada initiative taken from the Filipino word for "accelerate" -- compiles recommendations for seven "big winner" sectors: agribusiness; information technology; and business process outsourcing (BPO); creative industries infrastructure; manufacturing and logistics; mining; and tourism; medical travel and retirement.

"PNoy (Mr. Aquino) and the government are on track.  He has a good team of Cabinet secretaries and agency heads," American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham) Executive Director Robert M. Sears said in an email. 

"[But there is still] lots of work to be done," Mr. Sears added.

Last month's workshop -- first conducted after Arangkada -- was released last December, sought to check progress made by the government.

A summary provided BusinessWorld showed that so far, accomplishments had been made with regard to tourism outsourcing, creative industries, manufacturing and infrastructure, while nothing was accomplished for agribusiness and mining.

Mr. Arroyo's issuance of a "pocket open skies" policy last month was seen as a boost for both tourism and infrastructure.

For the BPO sector, "champions" in Congress who will work for the passage of key bills have been identified (although they were not named in the report), while a Creative Industries Initiative was said to be in the process of being organized via the Creative Economies Council of the Philippines.

For manufacturing, the JFC noted that Mr. Aquino had a "strong economic team in the Cabinet that works in tandem with designated private sector leaders," and that the government had allowed "direct deconsolidation of cargoes to PEZA Philippine Economic Zone Authority logistics warehouses."

Creation of a power development plan -- under the infrastructure sector, meanwhile, rounded out the list of completed JFC recommendations.

There is still a lot that needs to be acted upon, however.  Using only the JFC's "highest priority recommendations" list, these include policies on privatization, the upgrading of local aviation standards, changes to the build-operate-transfer law, a more focused public private partnership (PPP) program, and the implementation of open access in the of power sector -- all just a few of the proposals for infrastructure.

For the two "big winners" where nothing has so far been accomplished -- agribusiness and mining -- the JFC's top priorities include infrastructure, access to credit, reducing permit approval times, and education.

Sought for comment, Sec. Ricky A Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office said the JFC's recommendations were on the government's to-do list.

"Their concerns are on list of what we're working on right now.  For example, the president gave the [Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines] a year to do something on the ban [on Philippine carriers]," Mr Carandang said in a phone interview yesterday, referring to a proscription announced last year by the European Union.

The Palace spokesman, meanwhile, admitted that mining could prove to be a headache.

"We're still not seeing some significant headway in mining because over the years, [there has] opposition."

"If the communities want it, [mining] we'll support it,"  Mr. Carandang said.

More local government units are approving restrictions on mining investments, the most significant of which is South Cotabato's ban on open-pit mining which could scuttle the $5.9-billion Tampakan Copper-Gold project.

The JFC is composed of the AmCham Australian New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, Inc., Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc.


Source: Business World; News; 11 April 2011

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