Government News Analysis

New president’s ‘fair deal for foreigners’

President Elect, Rodrigo Duterte, has offered a strong assurance to foreign investors that they can safely do business in the Philippines. He says that he will liberalise entry and provide a business environment that is both transparent and friendly to foreign participants. Part of that will be the creation of designated “business islands” as economic zones which will attract overseas cash and create jobs. To aid in attracting overseas cash, he also plans to introduce economic policies and laws that are simple and believable and no longer strangled by red tape.

“I will open investments. If possible, in every region, I’ll have economic zones. And the foreigners can come, and they’ll have the same protection. I guarantee them profits that will be swiftly returned to them,” he said.

OUTLINE OF DUTERTE’S ECONOMIC POLICIES

Government. “Shake-up Manila,” and move from a presidential to a federal system allowing the regions more autonomy and power over their own resources, allowing them to maximise their economic opportunities.

Public Private Partnerships. These will remain a central plank of building the country’s infrastructure. Critical of the pace of PPP under the previous administration, Duterte plans to fast-track them, allowing new infrastructure to be quickly put in place. Private-sector money and expertise, he says, is vital to the success of these schemes.

Mining. Duterte remains largely opposed to opening up the mining sector, citing social costs to communities and risks to the environment.

Tourism. Likely to be a major focus of his economic policy, Duterte proposes the creation of additional tourism estates in Cebu and in the whole Central Visayas region. He also plans to transfer the main office of the Department of Tourism from Intramuros, Manila to Cebu.

Internet. Plans to introduce a new government department which will focus on IT and redress the problems of slow and expensive Internet is another likely key target of his administration.

Foreign ownership (businesses). Under the 1987 Constitution, foreigners are limited to a 40% stake; a Filipino partner taking 60% – a major deterrent to foreign investment. Under Duterte this could change: “Maybe we can tinker with the Constitution about changing or amending the [ownership rule] to make them [foreign investors] comfortable”.

Foreign ownership (land). Duterte is not in favour of amending the 40% foreign ownership rule for land.