Treat Philippines as part of East Asian community : Ramos

PRESIDENT Fidel Ramos yesterday said the Philippines intends to join the global economy, and called on investors to consider his country as part of the vigorous East Asian community.

As an indication of its commitment to that aim, the Philippines launched a joint business council with Singapore yesterday to promote bilateral trade and investment.

The launch was witnessed by General Ramos and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

In a keynote address at the Europe-East Asia Economic Summit, Gen Ramos said that the Philippines was lagging behind East Asia’s growth because it protected its industries from foreign competition.

But steps had been taken to remedy this.

Manila had started removing its trade barriers by paring down the list of tariffs and quotas to 183 from 2,720. It had also liberalised investment rules.

Reforms were paying off and growth this year was expected to reach at least five per cent.

“This kind of growth is modest only by East Asia’s dynamic standards and our economy’s growth has strong foundations being investment and export-led,” he said.

Witnessing the launch of the Philippines-Singapore Business Council at the Raffles Hotel, Mr Goh noted that it was a private-sector initiative.

“We hope that through this council, businessmen from both sides will have a chance to network and explore mutually beneficial projects,” he said to questions from reporters.

He added that he was impressed with what Gen Ramos had done for the Philippines so far, and added that he would take up the President’s invitation to visit the country.

Mr Goh said he would lead a business delegation there to identify investment opportunities in the first half of next year.

Gen Ramos said that President Ong Teng Cheong, whom he had met on Wednesday, had also accepted his invitation to visit the Philippines.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) said in a statement yesterday that the council will encourage joint exploration of business opportunities in third countries and enhance contacts between businessmen.

Trade between the two countries totalled S$2.36 billion in the first eight months of the year. Singapore was the sixth largest investor in the Philippines.

The council will be chaired jointly by Mr Loh Wing Siew, managing director of Singapore’s Keppel Corporation Ltd, and Mr Jaime Zobel de Ayala, chairman of the Ayala Corporation in the Philippines.

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