ANY negative perceptions on a spate of killings in the Philippines are unlikely to affect potential foreign investments, said Richard Graham, the British prime minister’s trade envoy to the Philippines.
The British MP told reporters that the country’s reputation as one of the brightest spots in Asia, as well as the new administration’s emphasis on the rule of law, will continue to attract potential investors.
“He (President Rodrigo Duterte) was very clear about the rule of law, and that is very important. That is true, of course, for trade and investment because if there is a strong rule of law, that encourages people to invest,” said Graham.
“If investors know there’s a problem, they can go to the courts with the assurance that the courts will be objective in its decisions,” he also said.
Graham, however, also emphasized that human rights remains a “very important” issue for both the Philippines and the United Kingdom.
A recent news report quoted European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) President Guenter Taus as saying that the business sectors from Europe, Canada and the United States seem to be wary of some developments under the new administration, particularly the deaths of more than 1,700 persons as part of the campaign against illegal drugs and other crimes.
Foreign investors, however, remain interested in President Duterte’s economic agenda.
“I sense that there is a lot in this new administration’s objectives which businesses will find very interesting, especially the deregulation and liberalization of foreign investments,” Graham said.
At present, the Philippine-UK trade relationship is expanding, with UK exports to the Philippines up by 38 percent.
“The Philippines’ exports portfolio to the UK, broadly speaking, is balanced. This is a very good relationship, with more areas and opportunities to grow in textile, design and fashion items, among others,” said Graham.
Some suppliers of equipment and services to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, which GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. has managed for nearly two years now, come from the United Kingdom. At least four British companies are providing services and technology to the MCIA, where GMR-Megawide is also building a second terminal.
Graham, who is tasked to visit the Philippines thrice per year, is keen on making the Philippines better-known in the UK.
“The issue here is that not enough people, businessmen in the UK know about the Philippines. They don’t understand what a great country it is; that you are an English-speaking population and predominantly Christian,” said Graham.
He hoped more direct flights will soon serve both countries.
The UK is the largest European investor in the Philippines with more than £1 billion or roughly P61 billion. Major British companies currently in the country include Unilever, HSBC, Standard Charter, Pru Life and GlaxoSmithKline.