TO ENSURE that economic gains are felt in the grassroots, local officials were urged to open up their localities to outside investors.
National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General Ernesto Pernia said that for provinces to spur economic growth, these shouldn’t hinder outside investors from doing business.
Pernia noted that local government units (LGUs) cannot prevent businesses from coming into their towns because there is a competition law, which affords businesses a level playing field and is supposed to give consumers fair access to all goods and services.
“They need to open up if they want better progress and see modernization of the town,” said Pernia during the Philippine Economic Briefing last Thursday in the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu. He’s disappointed by Tagbilaran City, which has barred the entry of shopping mall giants.
The Neda official said it would be the responsibility of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to ensure local officials adhere to policies.
Robert Go, president of the Philippine Retailers’ Association in Cebu, brought up during the open forum the long-standing concern of retailers that there some towns and provinces that are not friendly to investors.
Go, who runs the Prince Hypermart chain in Visayas and Mindanao, said that business owners have encountered towns and provinces unfriendly to other business players.
“We are confused because here we talk about inclusive business, spreading businesses in the countryside but in reality, there are barriers to the entry of investors,” said Go, also a past president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s win in the 2016 elections, his economic managers have been vocal about developing the countryside—urging players from various industries to relocate in other promising rural areas to create more jobs and decongest highly urbanized areas.
Pernia told the business community of Cebu that now is the best time to invest as the country is experiencing stellar growth.
Chuchi Fonacier, deputy governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), said that the economy grew in the last 76 consecutive quarters or 19 consecutive years, amid challenges in both domestic and local markets.
Under the Philippine Economic Development Plan, the country is projected to grow an average of seven to eight percent from 2018 to 2022.
Easing foreign investment restrictions is one of the key strategies the country will execute to accelerate growth, said Pernia.
Investment targets for Region 7 from 2017 to 2022 stood at P49 billion. This covers infrastructure programs and other projects, Neda said.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director Kelly Bird, in a statement, said that the Philippines is going through a golden age of growth.
ADB has projected that the Philippine economy will grow by 6.8 percent for this year and 6.9 percent in 2019, higher than its full-year average of 6.7 percent in 2017. KOC