British officials say UK trade & investments in the Philippines on uptrend

British officials say UK trade & investments in the Philippines on uptrend

- in News

Officials from the United Kingdom said trade and investments with the Philippines continue to increase despite Britain’s move to leave the European Union, with Brexit seen more as an opportunity rather than a risk by investors.

Alok Sharma, a member of the British Parliament and Minister for Asia-Pacific of the UK Foreign Office discussed with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III in a recent meeting a wide range of issues, including the Duterte administration’s priority goals, economic opportunities between the two countries, and the government’s war against illegal drugs.

In the meeting, Sharma said the UK supports the rehabilitation program of the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs.

“There is drug rehabilitation and from our perspective we would very much like to support it. [On drug rehabilitation] that’s where we would like to come and support,” Sharma said.

Underscoring the gravity of the illegal drugs problem here, Dominguez informed Sharma that most overseas Filipino workers who have left their families behind in the Philippines, including nurses working in the UK. have voted for President Duterte because of his pledge to make their children safe from the drug scourge.

“The nurses in your country, in the UK, 75 percent of them voted for our President, and you know why? Because he promised that their children here will be safer. That means a lot to the OFWs. That’s their main worry when they leave—falling to bad habits, drugs and everything else,” Dominguez said.

He told Sharma that on top of the war against drugs, the Duterte administration has also been vigorously implementing its priority goals of reducing poverty, developing a society that is law-abiding, and a country at peace with itself and its neighbors in the international community.

Sharma was accompanied during the meeting by UK Ambassador to Manila Asif Ahmad and Philip Malone, Deputy Head of the Southeast Asia Department of the UK Foreign Office, along with other British embassy officials.

In the meeting, Sharma informed Dominguez that he had met with other Philippine officials as well as heads of large Philippine companies here during his visit to further explore ways of expanding trade and investment opportunities between Manila and London.

“We had a number of really good meetings actually with big companies here who also invested in the UK. We had discussions with UK companies who invested here in the Philippines. And I think the overall message is that things are moving forward, obviously in terms of our trade that increased, investment has increased,” Sharma said.
He said Brexit has made no significant impact on British investments overseas and on the British economy, which is “doing very well.”

“So right now, it looks quite positive. And the message that has been coming from investors here, Filipino investors here to the UK, is that they see an opportunity in Brexit rather than a risk,” Sharma said, adding that this was the same message he got from other investors in his visit to other countries in the region.

Dominguez said that in the Philippines, the ultimate goal is to reduce poverty from 22 percent to 15 percent five years from now, by sustaining high economic growth and accelerating spending on infrastructure, human capital and social protection for the most vulnerable sectors of society.

The infrastructure buildup—an area that Sharma said the UK is particularly interested in—would focus on areas outside Mega Manila, especially in low-income communities in Eastern Visayas, Northern Luzon and Mindanao, Dominguez said.

Dominguez informed Sharma that the Duterte administration, which plans to invest $180 billion in infrastructure over the next five years, has so far approved 17 big-ticket infra projects, including land transport infrastructure, airport development and flood control.

In discussing political developments across the globe with Sharma, Dominguez described 2016 as a “year of disruptions” which began in the Philippines with the electoral triumph of Rodrigo Duterte, a city mayor from Mindanao, in the presidential polls, followed by the Brexit and capped by the unexpected victory in the United States presidential elections of billionaire businessman Donald Trump.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the UK.

The UK is the largest European investor in the Philippines with British companies such as Shell, Prudential UK and Dunlop Slazenger having sizable investments here.

Some 17,000 British nationals live in the Philippines while 250,000 Filipinos reside and work in the UK. About 180,000 UK tourists visit the Philippines every year.

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