Philippine Daily Inquirer, 22 September 2014
By Amy R. Remo
The steady increase in demand, spending and investments in the Philippines‚Äô healthcare and medical industry has caught the eye of foreign firms eager to tap business opportunities in the country.
The International Trade Administration, an agency under the United States Department of Commerce, for one, is already putting together a trade mission that targets to bring to the Philippines up to 20 US companies and groups engaged in the healthcare and medical industry.
According to the ITA, there are huge business opportunities in the Philippines, where the demand for healthcare is expected to continue to rise on the back of a ‚Äúgrowing population, growing annual per capita income, increased spending on medical care, and growing investments‚ÄĚ in healthcare facilities.
‚ÄúHealthcare spending in the Philippines is estimated at $9 billion in 2013, with a projected 10-percent increase in 2014. Approximately 64 percent of the labor force is fully employed, many with access to health insurance for themselves and for their dependents,‚ÄĚ the ITA said in a notice.
According to the ITA, the Philippine healthcare industry, although relatively small, presents a good opportunity for US firms because the medical device market is almost 100 percent imported, with a strong US presence.
‚ÄúDespite their perceived higher costs, American products enjoy a prominent place in the market due to US-trained Filipino doctors and their preference for the high technology of American medical equipment and instruments. Most hospital managers also prefer US technology over other foreign brands, although US manufacturers are facing growing competition from Germany, the Netherlands and Japan,‚ÄĚ the agency said.
The ITA also pointed out that, in addition to private investments, the Philippine government‚Äôs Public-Private Partnership program would allow private groups to finance, design, build, operate, and maintain a hospital for a maximum period of 25 years, after which the hospitals would be turned over to the Department of Health. Such projects are expected to not only improve the facilities, but also the healthcare delivery system, making medical care accessible to more Filipinos.
Apart from opportunities presented through the PPP program, constant requirements for updated healthcare services, new technologies and equipment replacement drive market growth, the ITA reported.
‚ÄúHospitals continue upgrading facilities to remain competitive. Several investment companies have acquired stakes in the healthcare sector, providing much-needed capital for facilities to upgrade and modernize equipment. Real estate developers have also partnered with known healthcare providers to construct health and wellness centers in and around the communities that they are building, adding more appeal to the community and more value to the real estate,‚ÄĚ it said.
The ITA‚Äôs planned healthcare and medical mission is expected to arrive in the country in February 2015, after which the same delegation will head to Indonesia.
The mission will include representatives from a variety of US medical/healthcare industry manufacturers (equipment/devices, laboratory equipment, emergency equipment, diagnostic, physiotherapy and orthopedic, healthcare information technology, and other allied sectors), service providers, and trade associations and organizations. The mission will introduce the participants to the appropriate government agencies, end-users, and prospective local business partners whose needs and capabilities are best suited to them.
Manila Standard Today, 18 September 2014
President will attend business meetings on Wednesday with French companies, which have established presence in the Philippines, and call for broader partnerships in ‚Äúthe wealth of opportunities‚ÄĚ in the country, a presidential spokesman said.
Edwin Lacierda said Aquino will join the meetings with Airbus, Schneider Electric and Teleperformance and witness the signing of agreements during his two-day visit to Paris, France on September 17-18.
These companies have already established their presence in the Philippines, two of them for almost two decades, Lacierda said.
The visit to France was the third stop of a four-nation working trip to Europe. He has been to Spain and Belgium.
In France, where there are 46,000 Filipinos, Aquino will meet the Filipino community in the Chapelle Sainte Bernadette. From Paris, the president will proceed to Germany and the United States.
Lacierda said Aquino will meet French President Francois Hollande before attending the business meetings to discuss economic and cultural cooperation, health issues and disaster risk reduction and management.
He said Aquino will also have bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Manuel Valls and ‚Äútopics such as the Filipino community in France and developments in the Philippine economy will be discussed.‚ÄĚ
In Belgium, Aquino told businessmen the¬† government has leveled the playing field for all players in the Philippines, making the country a good investment destination, citing the $1.3 billion worth of public-private partnership projects that have been implemented.
‚ÄúThere is indeed a wealth of opportunity in the Philippines, and we hope to forge new partnerships or even broaden the existing ones in the near future‚ÄĒpartnerships where all parties involved will benefit and will contribute to the rise of Asia‚Äôs new tiger,‚ÄĚ Aquino said.
He said the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of the second quarter of 2014 was 6.4 percent, and the government predicts the economy to hit its target of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent GDP growth by the end of the year.
‚ÄúAs it turns out all investors needed to see was a government dedicated to integrity and public service. We do not have to look beyond the area of public-private partnerships in order to see the transformation that has taken place in industry,‚ÄĚ Aquino said.
He said the public-private partnerships were ideal ventures because all parties benefit: private enterprise profit by putting their expertise and knowledge and other resources to good use; government is able to complete large projects for the benefit of the people.
‚ÄúFrom a mere promise of reform that we gave businessmen back in 2010, today, the results of our good governance agenda have allowed us to come so far, as we stand in front of so many potential partners,‚ÄĚ Aquino said.
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18 September 2014
By Christian V. Esguerra
BRUSSELS‚ÄĒPresident Aquino played salesman on Tuesday and invited European businessmen to invest in various private-public partnership (PPP) projects underway, urging them to ‚Äúcontribute to the rise of Asia‚Äôs next tiger.‚ÄĚ
In a gathering of potential investors at the Sofitel Hotel here, the President described a new business climate under his watch, one that claims to offer a ‚Äúclear potential for profitability‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúa level playing field.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúToday, I am confident in telling you: Take a look at what we have to offer,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúThere is indeed a wealth of opportunity in the Philippines, and we hope to forge partnerships with you in the near future‚ÄĒpartnerships where all parties involved will benefit, and will contribute to the rise of Asia‚Äôs next tiger.‚ÄĚ
The President‚Äôs sales pitch came with a glossy booklet detailing investment opportunities in the Philippines and with the words, ‚ÄúNow is the best time to invest‚ÄĚ there.
‚ÄúUnder the hallmark of good governance, the Philippine government guarantees that the private sector will be able to do business in an environment that nurtures fair and transparent transactions,‚ÄĚ it said.
It outlines a ‚Äúrobust pipeline of PPP projects‚ÄĚ such as the P122.8-billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project, the P35.4-billion Cavite Laguna Expressway Project, and the P64.9-billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 Cavite Extension Project.
‚ÄúUnder our administration, we get the infrastructure we need quicker than if we remained reliant on our budget process,‚ÄĚ Aquino said.
‚ÄúOn top of that, investors can see a clear potential for profitability, so much so that they provide incentives for government in the form of premiums. The state is thus afforded the best possible bid because of a level playing field, which engenders fair competition among interested parties.‚ÄĚ
Easy to set up shop
Aquino said business permits could now be obtained in three days, compared to the three-month, 10-step process before he took office.
‚ÄúStreamlining the process of setting up shop in the Philippines eliminated opportunities for corruption and redounded to savings in the time and energy of companies,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúUnfortunately, for the past three administrations, the scales were unbalanced: Every incentive was seemingly put on the table just to be able to attract investors‚ÄĒfrom commercial development rights, to subsidies. Not to mention the fact that only six solicited projects were awarded in the 18 years before we entered office in 2010.‚ÄĚ
From December 2011 until this month, he said his administration had either awarded or signed off on eight solicited PPP projects worth P62.6 billion.
In a speech on Tuesday at a forum organized by Egmont Institute, a think tank based in Brussels, Aquino declared, ‚ÄúI am proud to say to all of you: The Philippines is well and truly back in business.‚ÄĚ
The President said the Philippines, with its economic resurgence, was now playing an ‚Äúincreasingly prominent role‚ÄĚ as Southeast Asia builds a community working to achieve ‚Äúsecurity, peace and prosperity for its peoples.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI invite all like-minded people, communities and nations to join us,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúLet us combine our strengths with yours; let us share lessons with one another, and together, accelerate our pursuit of the goal of improving everyone‚Äôs lives.‚ÄĚ
Just getting started
Aquino said the Philippines, one of Asia‚Äôs fastest-growing economies, was just getting started.
‚ÄúThis is only the beginning,‚ÄĚ said Aquino, who trumpeted government investments in health, education and other social services.
‚ÄúThese programs were designed with the long term in mind. They pave the way to a populace that is healthier, more educated and more equipped to take advantage of the opportunities that are becoming increasingly available,‚ÄĚ he added.
‚ÄúThese are only a few of our accomplishments, but from these alone, it is clear: Good governance is making waves across the archipelago.‚ÄĚ
In parading the gains of his administration, the President assailed his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, before his international audience at the Ch√Ęteau of Val-Duchesse.
Aquino described his election in 2010 as a ‚Äúresounding statement‚ÄĚ of voters that the ‚Äúsystemic pillaging of state coffers must end, and government must go back to serving its true bosses‚ÄĒthe Filipino people.‚ÄĚ
He made as exhibits of his anticorruption campaign the plunder case filed against Arroyo, the removal of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
‚ÄúMy predecessor‚Ä¶ is under hospital arrest as she faces two serious unbailable charges, with another one still being reviewed by the Ombudsman,‚ÄĚ he said.
The 6.3-percent average economic growth from 2006 to 2009, the final years of Arroyo, was driven mainly by consumer spending with a bulk of the money coming from remittances from abroad.
‚ÄúThis meant that our economy was highly vulnerable to shocks not just in our own country, but in the host and receiving countries as well,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúThis is why, over the course of our administration, we have worked to regain control of our economic destiny. We have made early strides in making Philippine growth more investment-driven, which is more sustainable,‚ÄĚ he added, noting that the economy grew by an average of 6.3 percent from 2010 to 2013.
Prior to his term, Mr. Aquino said the Philippines was ‚Äúmired in a vicious cycle of corruption, deceit and negativism.‚ÄĚ He described Arroyo‚Äôs term as a ‚Äúlost decade,‚ÄĚ a period where ‚Äúmassive opportunity [was] squandered by a government that, instead of laying foundations for growth, focused on political self-preservation.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúSome people had grown so apathetic that it seemed that the only ambition for them was to leave the country to look for better opportunities,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúDespite this, the previous administration had the temerity to claim credit for continued growth, which was actually fueled by Filipinos who were working abroad.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Aquino said the Philippines was now enjoying ‚Äúnewfound vitality‚ÄĚ that ‚Äúcan be felt in the optimism of the common Filipino.‚ÄĚ
Originally posted at 6:39 pm | Wednesday, September 17, 2014
ABS-CBN News, 17 September 2014
A level playing field. That’s what President Aquino promised European investors as he promoted $20 billion worth of infrastructure contracts in the Philippines.
It’s the same pitch he used at the start of his presidency, but this time he’s telling it to a different audience, leaving out the details like delayed biddings and contested contracts.
Malaya Business Insight, 17 September 2014
Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said ¬†President Aquino will push public-private partnership projects in the remaining leg of his European trip after the successful PPP Conference in Brussels, Belgium yesterday.
Currently, PPP Center has over 50 projects in the pipeline, with an estimated investment requirement of about US$20.00 billion. A number of these infrastructure projects such as water facilities, rails, airports are ready to be rolled out in the next 12 months.
Domingo noted that these PPP projects will likewise be pushed in various fora of the France and Germany leg of the President‚Äôs trip to Europe until September¬†20.
‚ÄúWe are hopeful that we are able to draw snowballing interest from potential participants on PPP projects as well as provide an opportunity to partner with local companies,‚ÄĚ Domingo said.
From Belgium, the President is set to visit France and Germany
‚ÄúAfter these series of trips promoting investments, particularly PPP projects in the Philippines, we expect that we will able to relay and instill to potential European foreign investors that the country enables business that cultivates fair and transparent dealings,‚ÄĚ Domingo said.
In Spain, the President conducted a series of dialogues with leading infrastructure development business leaders and shared future projects for bidding in the PPP program.
Domingo said the PPP projects, which are anchored on the key pillars of his administration such as transparency, accountability and good governance.
ABS-CBN News, 17 September 2014
By Jorge Cari√Īo
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – President Benigno Aquino III trumpeted the gains of his administration’s public private partnership program before the European community.
Speaking at the Conference on PPP Program For Infrastructure Projects In The Republic of the Philippines, Aquino said his administration has been able to award and sign off on 8 PPP projects, valued at P62.6 billion or around $1.3 billion, from December 2011 to September 2014.
“Under our administration, we get the infrastructure we need quicker than if we remained reliant on our budget process. On top of that, investors can see a clear potential for profitability, so much so that they provide incentives for government in the form of premiums. The state is thus afforded the best possible bid because of a level playing field, which engenders fair competition among interested parties” said Aquino.
The President attributed the gains to the efforts of his administration, which he says investors have seen a government dedicated to integrity and public service.
He said PPPs are regarded as ideal ventures precisely because all parties can benefit from them: private enterprise can profit by putting their expertise and knowledge to good use; government is able to complete large-scale projects at a more opportune time for the people.
“Unfortunately, for the past three administrations, the scales were unbalanced: every incentive was seemingly put on the table just to be able to attract investors-from commercial development rights, to subsidies. Not to mention the fact that only six solicited projects were awarded in the 18 years before we entered office in 2010,” Aquino said, taking a swipe at his predecessors.
Aquino said it was no easy task when he did the first pitch for PPP in November 2010.
“We understood the apprehension that businesses must have felt at the time, given my predecessor’s reputation, borne of constant allegations of wrongdoing. In 2010, the only reassurance we could give was the promise of integrity: that, under our watch, the playing field would be level, and that the Aquino administration would render true public service-by empowering our people, by harnessing their optimism and solidarity towards equitable progress, and by working with the private sector to change the landscape of the Philippines,” he said.
He assured that the promises his administration has made to business and to the Filipino people were promises that they intend to fulfill — through good governance, transparency, and accountability.
He highlighted his administration’s zero-based budgeting to eliminate ineffective program and strengthen institutions that were weakened by corruption and impunity.
Aquino said agencies’ performance targets are now detailed to the finest extent possible in their budgets, in order to demonstrate their transparency and the eventual accountability of the agency to the Filipino people.
“Streamlining the procurement process in each government agency allowed us to cut waste further. Meanwhile, prudent management gave us even more fiscal space to make greater investments in social services and in infrastructure development,” he said.
The President also underscored his administration’s efforts to streamline the process of setting up shop, eliminating opportunities for corruption, redounded to savings in the time and energy of companies.
“To obtain business permits and licenses, for example, you now need only one form, for a processing time of three days maximum-a vast improvement from the previous more than ten-step application process and three month processing time,” he said.
By Lorenz S. Marasigan
The country‚Äôs key infrastructure thrust has a lot more room for improvement despite the Philippines being one of Asia‚Äôs champion nations in promoting collaboration between the government and the private sector.
In particular, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Managing Director General Juan Miranda said the government should remove all legal hurdles that delay the procurements and awards processes of the deals.
He then urged the government to review its policy on being too legalistic on the contracts, as this would make the deals more palatable to the taste of the investors.
‚ÄúThe government should do away with the legal hurdles and market the Philippines as the destination for investors‚ÄĒnot just foreign but also local ones‚ÄĒto venture into national infrastructure,‚ÄĚ Miranda said.
There are at least four public-private partnership (PPP) projects whose awarding were postponed due to legal battles.
The P5.69-billion Modernization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center deal that went to the Megawide-World Citi Inc. consortium last year was stopped from being implemented shortly after lawmakers and health groups petitioned against the project, as this would entail the privatization of the hospital.
Likewise, the awarding of the P17.5-billion Mactan Cebu International Airport New Passenger Terminal contract was postponed after the second winning bidder sought legal measures in a bid to win the deal. It went to Megawide Construction Corp. and GMR Infrastructures Ltd., the winning bidder, in April this year.
The granting of the P64.9-billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 Cavite Extension deal to the Light Rail Manila Consortium of Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. was also pushed back by more than two months, as a property developer challenged a component of the deal before the High Court. The consortium was the lone bidder for the project.
Currently, the Team Orion of Aboitiz Land Inc. and Ayala Corp. is still awaiting the granting of the P35.2-billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway deal, pending the decision of President Aquino on the petition of rival San Miguel Corp. (SMC).
Almost all auctions have been seeing delays, some already stalled for years, due to their commercial
implications.¬†¬†But removing key hurdles entails much planning and review of the contracts, especially the allocation of resources, Miranda said.
‚ÄúIt is a learning process. Sometimes we issue a PPP, we learn from the mistakes, then we correct those mistakes. Then, later on, we have PPPs with fewer problems. It‚Äôs a difficult job. But the government should bear in mind that the client is the public. It is what really matters,‚ÄĚ Miranda stressed.¬†¬†The pipeline of key infrastructure projects number to almost 60 deals, 27 of those are under the transportation agency, while the others are spread among other government offices.
‚ÄúManila is a champion city that needs champion infrastructure and fantastic public-sector transport. It doesn‚Äôt matter who manages it. The important thing is we have to shift people from one place to another a lot faster,‚ÄĚ Miranda said.
He noted that his agency is ready to partner with the government in financing infrastructure projects.
‚ÄúBoth of us, the government and ADB, are small, and these projects are big. We will have to work with the private sector. We hope to play a role in bridging investors and providing clear communications to remove fear in financing infrastructure,‚ÄĚ the official said. ‚ÄúLet‚Äôs get proper infrastructure in place. Manila needs it. From the airport down to the points within the city, so people can go to work and don‚Äôt spend hours and hours in traffic.‚ÄĚ He noted, however, that, no matter how quick the current government is in improving the infrastructure in the country, these projects will have to cross to another administration.
‚ÄúAnyone can start, and even if they cannot finish it, someone else can. I‚Äôm sure there is plenty of time for the current administration and for others to do it. This is a thing of national interest,‚ÄĚ Miranda said.
The government has awarded eight PPP contracts since the flagship infrastructure program was launched in late-2010. It aims to sign at least 15 contracts by the time President Aquino steps down from office in 2016.