The Philippines must “pull away” from catching up with other Southeast Asian countries and make itself more attractive to investors amid the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) said.
During the 2020 European-Philippine Business Summit on Friday, ECCP President Nabil Francis said the country still needed to implement policies to improve its competitiveness.
This comes, he added, at a time when companies and investors are paying more attention to Asia as an alternative destination to diversify their businesses in light of the adverse effects of Covid-19 on global supply chains.
“The Philippines has to pull away from the catch-up game with its neighbors in the region and move swiftly,” Francis said. “The country can transform itself into a more attractive investment destination by lifting foreign investment restrictions, providing a competitive fiscal regime, fostering healthy market competition and further improving the ease of doing business.”
With this in mind, he added, the ECCP supports the proposed amendments to the Public Service, Foreign Investment and Retail Trade Liberalization laws.
The European-Philippine business community believes their swift passage would serve as a catalyst for economic recovery and job generation, according to the chamber chief.
“At the same time, we also urge the government to immediately come up with a competitive fiscal regime to dispel uncertainties,” he said.
Francis’ remarks come as he reported that, like their local counterparts, the operations of nearly all European companies operating in the Philippines have been negatively affected by the pandemic.
He noted how the global health crisis forced lives and livelihoods around the world, including those in the Philippines, to take a sharp turn.
Results of a recent ECCP survey involving 200 European firms in the country showed that the pandemic already created uncertainty in the investment environment, Francis said.
“Ninety-two percent of respondents said that they are significantly affected by Covid-19,” he added, and “a little less than 7 percent said they are considering delaying or canceling investment decisions.”
The respondents also experienced reduced business and trade activities, according to Francis.
“The survey respondents also cited travel restrictions, weakened demand, increased cost of health and safety, among other key challenges [to] their business,” the ECCP chief said.