The Philippines 5

Writing the Next Chapter – Aired October 2013

The world’s economy and the world’s business community has really been responding positively

It is a magical time to be in the Philippines. This country has a tremendous future ahead of it

Right now we are encouraging investors to invest in the Philippines

We are the next tiger economy

Stretching nearly 2,000 kilometers from top to bottom and set in the clear tropical waters of South East Asia, the Philippines is the world’s second largest archipelago. The capital, Metro Manila, is home to some 12 million people, and serves as the political, economic and cultural center of the country.

Three years after being elected to be the country’s 15th President, Benigno Aquino III is credited with ushering in an era of economic growth that has transformed the former ‘sick man of Asia’ into one of the region’s brightest stars.

An HSBC report released in 2012 predicts the country will be the 16th largest economy in the world by 2050 as the result of strong macroeconomic fundamentals and significant improvements in governance. While not all of the President’s policies have been roundly embraced, Filipino business leaders are confident about the country’s prospects, with business optimism ranking the second highest in the world according to an international survey released earlier this year.

With the Philippines Stock Exchange climbing daily and a real estate boom in full swing across the country, it is evident that Filipinos believe their time has finally come.

Under President Aquino’s leadership, the federal government is attempting to get its fiscal house in order and crack down on the corruption that has hindered economic growth in the past.

Although according to the World Bank, taxes accounted for less than 12% of GDP in 2010, the Philippines has become a net creditor to the International Monetary Fund, after nearly four decades as a net borrower. Fitch Ratings conferred investment grade status on the country in March of this year, a long-awaited upgrade that has given the Filipino government more space to invest in its people. With a robust spending plan focusing on healthcare, infrastructure, and education, the Aquino administration has set its sights on achieving inclusive growth.

Sprawling across more than 600 square kilometers on the island of Luzon, Metro Manila is a city of contrasts. Like many cities in the developing world, extreme wealth and abject poverty often stand side-by-side. With a sizable percentage of the population living on less than 2 dollars a day, the Aquino administration realizes that lasting growth hinges on making sure that economic gains filter down to the poorest of the poor.

A controversial bill mandating higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco recently passed in the Senate by a single vote, with the revenue generated earmarked for improvements to health care access and quality. An ambitious public-private partnership initiative has been rolled out in a variety of sectors, particularly transport and health, with the private sector responding enthusiastically.

A country that is comprised of more than 7000 islands, the development of air and seaports throughout the country has been prioritized in the hopes of jump-starting provincial economies.

The Filipino government has also added an additional two years of basic public education in the hopes of providing its people with the tools to become globally competitive. With a young, English fluent population, the human capital of the Philippines is already globally recognized, with educational improvements poised to strengthen what is already one of the country’s greatest assets.

Though policy changes at the Federal level are aimed at achieving the trickle down effect, development of key sectors of the economy, such as agriculture and manufacturing, also could play a pivotal role in uplifting the poor. Manufacturing hasn’t developed in the Philippines at the same level as regional powerhouses such as China due unsubsidized electricity. Yet those who do invest in the sector can still remain competitive thanks to the quality of the Philippines’ human resources.

While the Philippines’ location on Pacific Ring of Fire means that the country is susceptible to typhoons and earthquakes, Filipino farmers in provincial areas are adept at cultivating and harvesting nature’s bounty, often with methods that have scarcely changed in hundreds of years. The Philippines is seeking to modernize its agricultural sector, with local firms developing innovative fertilizer technologies and exploring hybrid seeds that might improve food security and increase yields for farmers whose livelihoods depend on small tracts of land. With an ultimate goal of rice-self sufficiency, more investment is needed in the sector not only grow the Philippine economy, but also to have a powerful impact on some of the country’s poorest people.

Throughout the country, one of the first things a visitor will notice is the ever-present smile of the Filipino people. A Gallup poll released this year ranked the Philippines one of the happiest countries on earth, and it shows. Even in the face of natural disasters, Filipinos throughout the country respond to adversity with an easy smile and a ready laugh. Nowhere else is the tradition of making the most out even the worst situations more evident.

OFWs, or Overseas Foreign Workers, are national heroes, working long hours in a range of positions in order to be able to provide opportunities for their loved ones at home. Their contribution to the economy cannot be understated, with remittances in 2012 hitting a record breaking 23.8 Billion dollars or roughly 6.5% of the country’s total GDP. The warmth and English language skills of the Filipino people have put them in high demand internationally in the health care, hospitality, and the maritime industries.

Filipinos are born performers; with such a wealth of talented singers that visitors often wonder if the whole of the country was born with a microphone in their hands. It’s this talent that the Filipino government hopes to capitalize on as Entertainment City, Southeast Asia’s answer to Macau, rises above reclaimed land within spitting distance of Manila’s major international airport.

Top Three Things to Do in Manila

#3) Watch a Manila Bay sunset – long famed for the blaze of colors that paint the sky as day fades to night, Manila Bay consistently serves up a feast for the eyes.

#2) Visit the Hobbit House – This Tolkien themed establishment is the world’s only fully owned and operated hobbit bar, with hundreds of beers from around the world and nightly entertainment.

#1) Enjoy a feast at Seaside – Visit one of Manila’s sprawling wet markets, take your pick of the freshly caught seafood on display, and take it to any one of the restaurants a few steps away.

Despite its relatively small size, the fact that the Philippines is comprised of 7,107 islands means that it has a coastline longer than the continental United States. The beach is never more than a few hours drive, making the Philippines an island lover’s paradise.

For those travelers visiting Manila on business, the beach resorts of Batangas are an easy weekend trip, and the picturesque beauty of Taal Volcano never fails to impress. More adventurous travelers will find that the mountain retreats of Sagada and Banaue are well worth the effort due to their stunning natural scenery and cooler temperatures. For history buffs, the cobblestone streets and relics of Spanish colonization that are tucked within the city walls of Intramuros beg to be explored. And no matter where you go, the Filipinos you encounter will welcome you with open arms, one of many reasons for the success of the recently launched, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” campaign.

A thriving budget airline industry means that, in addition to the delights found throughout Metro Manila’s Luzon, a visit to one of the world’s most perfect paradises is rarely more than an hour or two away.

Palawan, the Philippines’ final frontier, is home to one of nature’s masterpieces, the Underground River, and pristine beaches. Gaze across the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, feel the powdery white sand of Boracay between your toes, and experience the thrill of a bungee jump above primordial jungles. Cradled by the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people, the Philippines is a place visitors just can’t help falling in love with.

The Philippines of today is a nation characterized by tremendous economic optimism and human capital that rivals the best in the world.

From real estate to tourism, manufacturing to agriculture, it’s a country poised to capitalize on its vast potential and move into a period of prosperity long overdue.

The rising tiger of Asia, the Philippines is in the process of writing the next chapter.