MANILA–Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox have discussed ways to expand Philippine exports to the UK and how our government can tap UK’s £4.5 billion export-import facility to help source funds for the Duterte administration’s unprecedented public investment program.
In their recent meeting, Dominguez took the opportunity to explain to Fox the Duterte administration’s focus on reversing the current income inequality between Metro Manila and the countryside by filling the infrastructure backlog and improving connectivity among the country’s regions.
“The opportunities are already there. It is just a matter of providing infrastructure. Once you start connectivity, naturally it will attract investments,” Dominguez said.
When Fox asked how the UK government could assist the Philippines, Dominguez told him the UK could help the country catch up with its Southeast Asian neighbors in investing heavily in infrastructure.
He informed Fox that the government plans to develop a second international airport, build high-speed trains between Manila and Clark in Pampanga, and possibly connect it to a commuter rail system in the South, along with improving Luzon’s ports to help decongest Metro Manila and encourage investments in the countryside.
For regions highly dependent on agriculture, the government will improve existing, and build new, irrigation systems, among other measures to boost farm productivity, Dominguez said.
Fox told Dominguez that the Philippines can look into UK’s £4.5-billion export-import facility to explore financing options for its massive infrastructure program.
“We hope that you can tap this rather under-tapped resource,” Fox said.
Dominguez welcomed Fox’s offer and said that while the Philippine government has been tapping foreign funding sources, it is also planning to implement a comprehensive tax reform program to generate revenues internally for its infrastructure buildup.
The finance chief said that as a result of President Duterte’s foreign policy rebalancing, the Philippines has been able to further strengthen its bilateral ties with Asia’s economic powerhouses such as Japan and China, which have both pledged a combined USD 9 billion in official development assistance and investments.
Dominguez likewise said that President Duterte’s rebalancing of foreign policy has proven to be timely, given that the Philippines is the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the occasion of its 50th founding anniversary this year.
He also cited the Philippines’ strong economy complemented by a low-interest rate regime, excess liquidity in the market, a well-received bonds issue, and its young, trainable workforce as among the key factors that would help realize the Duterte administration’s sustainable and inclusive growth agenda.
Fox, for his part, said the UK is “keen on establishing its footprint” in the Philippines’ services sector and in exporting its education technologies.
“We have opportunities in life sciences, accounting, banking, the medical sector and education,” Fox said.
In the meeting, the two officials also discussed expanding trade and investments between the two countries and expanding British exports to the world via UK’s new online trade portal.
The meeting was also attended by British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad; Mike Moon, the Director for Trade and Investment of the British Embassy; Aaron Chan (British Embassy’s Head of Inward Investment), and other UK Embassy officials.
Total Philippine exports to the UK in 2016 amounted to USD 476 million, while imports from UK reached USD 480 million in the same period.