Qatar in its drive to explore investment and co-operation opportunities in Southeast Asia has now moved closer to finalise a bilateral investment agreement with the Philippines, currently one of the Asean nations with the highest growth and biggest potential in a multitude of economic sectors.
HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani visited the Philippines in April last year and inked five memoranda of understanding on trade and economic co-operation. The most important agreement dealt with the establishment of a $1bn joint investment fund that would pave the way for Qatari investors into the Philippines in various sectors, particularly power, infrastructure, food and agribusiness, mining, real estate, petrochemicals, and steel, as well as portfolio investments.
Another agreement on reciprocal promotion and protection of investment is to be signed in the coming weeks and would eventually materialise the $1bn dollar fund.
The Philippine economy has been growing at a rapid pace over the past years at around 6% annually, making the much-overlooked country at the edge of Southeast Asia a newly favoured destination for global investors. Economic planners have remained optimistic the Philippine economy will remain strong over at least the next two years, as the country is determined to maintain its sound macroeconomic fundamentals and continue improving its investment climate through policy and regulatory reforms, as well as infrastructure development. For 2013, the country’s economy is expected to grow 6%to 7%, and the prediction for 2014 is even up to 7.5%.
Qatar has thus set up a Philippine-Qatar Business Council – which has its office in the southern Philippine province of Mindanao – to boost trade and investment relations between the two countries.
Qatar is also the third-largest destination for Overseas Filipino Workers – an estimated 250,000 or almost 17% of Qatar’s 1.5mn population live and work in Qatar. They are employed in construction, tourism, information technology, telecommunications, hotels, banks, and as domestic helpers. There are also 44 Filipino organisations in Doha.
To further strengthen the economic ties, flight frequency between Doha and Manila is also being stepped up. Qatar Airways currently has 14 Doha-Manila-Doha flights per week, but has been requesting the Philippine government to allow the frequency to be increased to a total of 28 flights per week. In turn, Philippine Airlines will begin flights from Manila to Doha from October 2013, planned at a frequency of six times a week. The flights are not only meant to offer more connections for Overseas Filipino Workers, but also to boost tourism between the two countries.
*Our columnist Dr Arno Maierbrugger is Editor-in-Chief of www.investvine.com, a news portal owned by Inside Investor focusing on Southeast Asian economic topics as well as trade and investment relations between Asean and the GCC. The views expressed are his own.
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