"For 65 years, our two countries have never gone through any serious misunderstanding. This says much about the friendly neighborliness that we have sustained since the start of our official ties in 1949," Roberto G Manalo, Charge dAffaires of the Philippines Embassy in Jakarta said in his opening remarks in Investment Conference 2014 themed "The Philippines and Indonesia at 65:Partners in Growth" organized by the embassy on Nov. 27, 2014.
Indonesia and the Philippines are perfect to be partners in business, but in reality it has not been the case, as the statistic shows that bilateral trade and investment value is very low, according to him.
In 2013, total bilateral trade between the Philippines and Indonesia amounted to US$3.62 billion in which Philippine imports from Indonesia exceeded exports by US$1.95 billion. Indonesia is the Philippines 11th major trading partner; 12th export market; and 9th import supplier.
"Our economies are oriented more towards farther offshore than towards each other. I thus encourage Filipino and Indonesian business leaders to re-discover our countries enduring ties, and optimize our bilateral relationship by forging together new paths in bringing economic prosperity to our people," Manalo said.
He encouraged Filipino businessmen and investors to come to Indonesia, and invited Indonesian businessmen to take a look at his country.
"I am sure you will be surprised to find a lot of business opportunities offered by the Philippines," he stated.
The Indonesian foreign affairs ministers Director General for Asia-Pacific and African Affairs Yuri O Thamrin, speaking in the conference, said Indonesia is in the process of turning "red tape" into "red carpet" for foreign businessmen interested in investing their money in the country.
The government has prioritized the promotion of trade and investment, and has been seeking the participation of the private sector in the development of infrastructure across the country.
Thamrin encouraged Filipino businessmen to increase trade with their Indonesian partners and invite investors to come to Indonesia.
He also called for closer cooperation between the two countries including in the labor cooperation to protect the rights of their citizens who work abroad, and to improve their welfare and dignity.
Key speaker in the investment conference, Atty. Arnel Paciano D Casanova, Chairman of the Philippine Investment Promotions Plan (PIPP) and president and CEO of Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), informed the audience that the bilateral trade and business relations have flourished over the years.
More than 20 Philippine companies are operating in Indonesia, several Indonesian firms are already existing in his country.
"There are also Philippine franchises carried by Indonesian retailers such as Potato Corner, Gingersnaps, Penshoppe and Julies bakeshop. Jollibee, a major fastfood chain in the Philippines, had already opened up stores in Indonesia in the 1990s but intends to come back in the next two years," Casanova said.
The Philippines and Indonesia can further look at improving industrial and business linkages, according to him. In the area of investments, for example, Indonesia is a far 29th place having an estimated approved investment in the Philippines of only US$1.21 million in 2013.
In the first half of 2014, approved investments from Indonesia was worth US$4.16 million. In 2013 and 2014, the Philippines had approved projects with Indonesian equity amounting to $.700 million under the Philippine BOI and a total of $1.4 million worth of projects located in PEZA zones.
"In the area of tourism, I think, there is a lot of unrealized potential. It is estimated that only a little more than 45 thousand Indonesians visited the Philippines in 2013 while there were more than 129 thousand Filipinos that visited Indonesia on the same year," he stated.
Casanova expressed his please that that the two nations formalized the first bilateral tourism cooperation during the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2012 in Manado, North Sulawesi, which focused on improving connectivity between both countries thru cruise ships and the renewal of direct flights between Davao in the Philippines to Manado Indonesia.
"I just learned that once a week chartered flights from Davao to Manado will start very soon," he added.
He invited Indonesian businessmen to visit the Philippines which is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 7.2 percent in 2013. It was also in 2013 that three of the major credit rating agencies upgraded the Philippines to investment grade status.
"We are not the only rising tiger economy in South East Asia, so is Indonesia. We are now called new tigers - rising, new dynamic economies projected to grow rapidly in the years ahead," Casanova stated.
Indonesia and the Philippines are linked historically, ethnically, culturally, geographically and economically. These commonalities are major assets that both nations can and should build upon. he stated.
"Let us get to know each other better so that we can find new ways of working together, new ways of creating wealth together and ensuring a better future for our peoples," he said. ***2***
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