SINGAPORE — Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual highlighted the Philippines’ readiness to welcome global investors, emphasizing the nation’s strategic trade policies and investment priorities at the 10th Milken Institute Asia Summit held on September 14 in Singapore.
During the panel entitled “Global Overview: Illuminating Pathways Through Complexities,” Pascual spotlighted the Philippines as a burgeoning hub for global investments, emphasizing the nation’s strategic focus on sectors such as telecom, media, technology, semiconductor, aerospace, and healthcare. He identified these sectors to be the key drivers for the Philippines to enhance its participation in the global value chain.
The DTI chief shared that the Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies globally in the last two decades, securing a pipeline of big-ticket investments exceeding the initial target under the Marcos Jr. administration. Despite facing some setbacks due to various external headwinds, he shared that this led the Board of Investments to increase the target from the original USD 17 billion to USD 26 billion.
Further, he shared that the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), coupled with the revitalized and forward-thinking Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP), sets a promising trajectory to bolster the nation’s position in the global market. He also explained that the administration is working on industry-specific and firm-centric plans to ensure the development of trade policies in the country.
Additionally, he underscored the pivotal role of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Philippine economy, referring to them as the “backbone” and “lifeblood” of the country.
“We’re doing a lot of things to introduce digitalization in their operations,” the DTI Chief cited, highlighting the government’s concerted efforts to foster digital transformation.
Secretary Pascual shared that as part of this digital shift, the DTI launched a Philippine E-commerce Platform to expand the market reach of small businesses, both nationally and globally. He also emphasized the establishment of a center for artificial intelligence, designed to serve the needs of both small and large businesses in optimizing the application of AI in their operations.
The trade and industry chief also shared the implementation of an Industry 4.0 pilot factory aimed at equipping businesses, especially MSMEs, with the knowledge to integrate new technologies into their operations.
In line with this, he cited that the government is revisiting the legal framework governing Internet transactions through the introduction of the Internet Transaction Act, which seeks to protect consumers and facilitate the participation of small businesses in the digital economy. He also linked these to the efforts of harmonizing national regulations with regional and international standards, including the recently launched Digital Economy Framework Agreement in Jakarta.
Further, Secretary Pascual highlighted the young Filipino population, with a median age of 25 and a significant presence in the IT and business process outsourcing sectors, which stands as a driving force in the nation’s transition into the digital economy. Pascual also cited the emerging field of cybersecurity as a potential industry that presents both a new challenge and an opportunity that should be developed by the government.
“We’re trying our best to develop the capability of our young population,” the DTI Chief added, in response to the growing global demand for cybersecurity experts.
The Trade Chief also highlighted the proactive strategy of the government in pursuing free trade agreements (FTAs), including the recently concluded one with South Korea, as part of the country’s broader strategy to expand its market access, particularly for exports. The DTI Chief also stated that the administration is optimistic on its goal of becoming a middle-income country in the next two to three years.
In addition to trade and investment efforts, he affirmed that the government remains dedicated to ensuring food security for the Filipino population. Through the DTI’s Three-Year Food Logistics Action Agenda, the current administration aims to reduce the friction from farm gate to the consumer to ensure the availability, accessibility, and affordability of food for Filipinos.
In closing, the DTI Chief underscored, “The Philippines warmly welcomes businesses and investors. Our trade policies are designed to facilitate a secure and seamless exchange of goods and services, emphasizing critical aspects like consumer protection, privacy, and intellectual property rights. Through collaboration between the public and private sectors, we can create a harmonized and cohesive global trade environment.”
The panel moderated by Pamela Mar, the Managing Director of the Digital Standards Initiative at the International Chamber of Commerce, brought together a distinguished group of speakers. These include Natalie Black, United Kingdom’s Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific; Gargee Ghosh, President of Global Policy and Advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and, Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Malaysia. The discussion centered on the new opportunities and complexities emerging in the global post-pandemic period, with a focus on driving success, innovation, and rebuilding a spirit of global collaboration.
The Milken Asia Summit is a prestigious event known for gathering the world’s most influential leaders and thinkers that continues to foster dialogues that shape the future of Asia and the world. It features a roster of high-profile speakers including global policymakers, industry leaders, and financial experts.