Australia exploring expansion of investment ties with Cebu-A A +A
Monday, July 2, 2012
THE Australian government is set to explore more trade opportunities in Cebu following last year’s investment by West Australia-based global shipbuilding firm Austal, Australian ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell said.
On his first official visit to Cebu last Friday, Tweddell said Filipinos, particularly Cebuanos, have great productivity and offer quality work output. He said Australian businesses can tap into the “creativity and industriousness” of Cebuanos.
Tweddell said this confidence in Cebu’s thriving economy is shown by the investment of Austal, which acquired last November the shipyard in the West Cebu Industrial Park in Balamban, the former FBMA Marine Shipyard.
According to the company’s website, the acquisition was part of its strategy to “regionalize its manufacturing base for commercial vessels.” Austal is currently making significant investments to enhance the shipyard’s capabilities.
The company has earmarked $5 million for enhancements, tapping local employees and contractors. Its first shipbuilding project will start this year.
According to the company, the first contract will be the first of a new Austal wind farm support vessel design, which will enable safer and more efficient transfer of crew and equipment to offshore wind turbines.
Austal said the project will be a prime example of the knowledge transfer that will happen between the operations in Australia and the Philippines.
“There are also opportunities for other industries in and from Cebu that we are excited about,” Tweddell said.
Tweddell and the Australian Trade Commission, led by senior trade and investment commissioner Anthony Weymouth, met with the top officials of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) and the local government units here to explore trade possibilities.
The trade officials identified opportunities in the food industry, furniture, tourism, and business process outsourcing as some of the key areas for Cebu that have potential in penetrating the Australian market.
Tweddell said CCCI is planning to conduct a trade mission in Australia this year.
“Cebu is selling wonderful products such as fresh and dried mangoes as well as furniture that have a strong potential in the global market,” he said.
Tweddell hopes to improve the trade of both countries as they reap the benefits of free trade agreements (FTA).
“Trade is encouraging,” said Weymouth, referring to the “impressive 20 percent uptake” of trade between the Philippines and Australia since the establishment of Asean-FTA.
Tweddell also said that Australia will continue to require employees from abroad to work for various industries, including health care.
“Filipino nurses are hard-working,” he said.
He said Filipino nurses are more competitive because of educational background, service capability, culture and flexibility.
Tweddell also said that Australia is willing to talk with players of the mining industry and the government to come up with a sustainable program that would address the growth of the industry without compromising the environment.
He noted that much of the success of Australia can be credited not only to various economic reforms but also to its thriving mining industry.
The Australian government will also push for tourism exchange programs to increase inbound travelers between the two countries. Tweddell, however, said that the Philippines needs to continue its efforts in developing products that meet the requirements of the global market.
Australia is among the top five travel markets for Cebu in the first quarter this year with 7,178 arrivals.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 03, 2012.