CANADIAN PM STEPHEN HARPER: PH IS RISING ASIAN 'TIGER'



[PHOTO -BULLISH OUTLOOK. Visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, gestures following a joint news conference with President Benigno Aquino III on Saturday, November 10, 2012 at Malacañang Palace grounds in Manila, Philippines. It was the first visit by a Canadian head of state in 15 years which was aimed at strengthening relations between the two countries. Canada is home to hundreds of thousands of Filipino immigrants. AP/Bullit Marquez]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 12, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Michael Lim Ubac - Visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sees the Philippines as “an emerging Asian tiger,” agreeing with the bullish outlook on the country of political and business leaders from many other parts of the world.

To demonstrate Canada’s confidence in the Philippine economy, Harper pledged to increase Canadian investment in the country during his meeting with President Aquino in Malacañang on Saturday.

Bilateral trade between Canada and the Philippines amounts to US$1.5 billion.

Mr. Aquino and Harper agreed to cooperate on defense and trade, and committed to people-to-people exchanges between the Philippines and Canada.

At a joint news conference, Mr. Aquino and Harper announced that the Philippine Department of National Defense and the state-run Canadian Commercial Corp. had signed a deal to help Manila buy military equipment to defend its territory.

The deal was signed amid a territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over islands and waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

President Aquino said the deal would help the Philippines build up its defense and security capabilities. He declined to elaborate.

But Harper said the deal would “enable the Philippines to acquire the equipment and expertise it needs to fulfill the country’s defense and security agenda.”

Under the deal, Philippine purchases of equipment and expertise from Canada’s C$12.6 billion (US$12.6 billion) defense industry are guaranteed by the Ottawa government, according to a Canadian government statement.

Mr. Aquino and Harper discussed the progress in the Aquino administration’s good government program and the gains in the peace process, particularly the signing of framework agreement for peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.


[PHOTO COURTESY OF ABS-CBN NEWS - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R), his wife Laureen (C), and Canadian Senator Tobias Enverga (L) ride a jeepney during their visit to Fort Santiago in Manila. Harper and President Aquino witnessed the signing Saturday of a deal to help Manila buy military equipment to defend its territory.]

At the news conference, Mr. Aquino and Harper did not cite specific amounts for Canadian investment, but Harper described the Philippines as an “important economic partner” and an “emerging Asian tiger.”

Mr. Aquino said the Philippines was open for business under a new management, and that he saw the visit of Harper as a “recognition of the change of atmosphere in the Philippines.”

“We do see increased commercial trade ties between our countries,” Mr. Aquino said.

He said it was “logical to assume” that the $1.5 billion two-way trade between the two countries is “just the starting point.”

Defense cooperation

The two leaders witnessed the signing of the defense deal by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Canadian Minister for International Trade and Asia-Pacific Gateway Ed Fast.

“This will help us in our efforts to build our defense and security capabilities,” Mr. Aquino said, welcoming Canada’s help in the much-delayed modernization of the Philippine armed forces.

The Canadian Commercial Corp. serves as a go-between for Canadian suppliers and foreign governments to transact defense and security contracts.

The Philippines has been in the market for patrol vessels to protect its waters, including areas that overlap with territory claimed by China.

Manila’s military treaty ally the United States is set this year to deliver a second refurbished Hamilton-class cutter, previously used by the US Coast Guard, to the Philippine Navy.

Last month, the Philippine Coast Guard announced it would buy five patrol boats from France for about 90 million euros (US$116 million), partly to guard disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

Harper and his lean delegation arrived in Manila Friday night.

He was accorded military honors on the Palace grounds when he showed up at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

He then proceeded to sign the presidential guestbook before he and Mr. Aquino sat for discussions in the Music Room.

This was followed by an expanded bilateral meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room and the signing of the defense deal and issuance of a joint press statement at the Reception Hall.

A state luncheon at the Rizal Hall hosted by Mr. Aquino in honor of Harper and his wife, Laureen, ended the official visit of the Canadian prime minister.

Harper was scheduled to fly back to Canada at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Ties that bind

Harper’s visit is the first by the highest Canadian official in 15 years. The last Canadian head of government to visit the Philippines was Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who brought a business delegation to Manila in 1997.

Besides Fast, Harper’s delegation included Joseph Oliver, minister for Natural Resources; the first Filipino-Canadian senator Tobias Enverga Jr.; and 10 Filipino-Canadian community leaders.

“Our government is taking actions to aggressively expand commercial relations with the entire Asia-Pacific region. We’re doing so to help create jobs, economic growth and a better quality of life both in Asia and in Canada,” Harper said at the official reception.

Harper disclosed the “many ties that bind” Canada and the Philippines such as the Foreign Investment Promotion Protection Agreement signed in 1995, and the growing people-to-people links.

There are nearly 800,000 Canadians of Filipino descent living and working in Canada. With a report from AFP

MANILA TIMES SUNADAY EDITORIAL

The former cub has become a tiger Published on 12 November 2012 Hits: 44

[PHOTO - Experts see the Philippines joining ‘tiger economies’ under Aquino leadership]

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sees something about the Philippines that even a lot of Filipinos may not see.

Over the weekend, the visiting North American head of state said the country was on its way. It had, he said, become “an emerging Asian tiger.”

That bears noting and repeating. The Philippines is an emerging Asian tiger, and not just a tiger cub. Once, the country was the latter, but instead of reaching full maturity, it seemed to go into hibernation. But now, the beast is wide awake, and it is a full blown tiger, ready to compete with the rest of the world.

Those were neither kind words nor safe motherhood statements said by Harper, but rather a statement of fact.

Call it a tiger economy or call it a dragon economy, but the country now stands on solid ground. Where before the country would invite outside investors to “give us a try” with some degree of shame, today it is with pride that we send out our representatives to tell those investors that this is the place to be.

It is hard to ignore that the Philippine economy has been growing at a healthy clip even as most of the world is having serious difficulties on the economic front. Even the worst enemies of the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd cannot deny this reality. At worst, they will claim that the economic growth of the country is not filtering down to the poorest of the poor, and that too many Filipinos still go to sleep at night without enough food in their bellies.

While it cannot be denied that poverty and unemployment still remain difficult challenges for the government, the growing signs of expanding wealth cannot be disregarded.

Ask any Filipino who has been away from home for one or two decades what he or she thinks of the country now, and he or she will have to say that signs of progress are everywhere. It can be seen in the residential high-rises and malls that are sprouting everywhere. It can be seen in the endless streams of new vehicles plying the streets of the metropolis. It can be seen in the hundreds of thousands of workers with excess money to spend the moment they leave their offices.

Harper’s bullish outlook for the country bodes well for the trade between the two nations, currently pegged at $1.5 billion a year. The prime minister has promised to hike Canadian investments in the Philippines, and there is no reason to see why this will not be so. After all, it makes perfect sense to invest in a country where returns are bound to be healthy.

The tiger cub has grown Once upon a time, the Philippines was dubbed as Southeast Asia’s new tiger cub economy. This was during the Ramos administration when the country experienced five years of steady economic growth.

Almost immediately after President Fidel Ramos stepped down in favor of President Joseph Estrada, the Philippines lost that status. The country’s growth stopped, primarily because the business community did not have much faith in the administration of the former actor-turned-politician.

Investors refused to plunk down their money in a country led by a self-confessed womanizer with atrocious work habits and whose idea of receiving sound advice was to convene a “midnight Cabinet” of cronies for regular drinking sessions.

The country did not return to tiger cub status during the nine-year Arroyo administration either.

The reason for this is not too different from what was perceived during the Estrada administration. Graft and corruption was still a way of life, and foreign and local investors refused to place their money in a country where no major projects could be signed without some influential person or persons demanding kickbacks and rebates.

Foreign investors, in particular, could always look at other countries in the region which offered better returns on their investments, with less bureaucratic red tape, and where government officials engaged in dirty practices were punished to the full extent of the law.

This is not to say that graft and corruption has been eradicated in today’s Philippines. Far from it. There are still disturbing reports that some high ranking government officials do not march to the ‘Daang Matuwid’ tune that President Aquino plays.

But by and large, the business community—international as well as local—can expect to engage in their activities without worrying that some ranking official and/or his or her close relatives will demand a piece of the action.

As the nation becomes more and more economically secure, it becomes the job of the stakeholders—every Filipino adult who is qualified to vote—to guarantee that the status of “emerging Asian tiger” not only be sustained, but reach the most advanced stage of First World economy.

Impossible? We think not. And Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees with us, we are sure.

EARLIER REPORT FROM THE INQUIRER

2 US experts see PH under Aquino Asia’s next tiger economy By Michael Lim Ubac Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:55 am | Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Philippines is now out of the doldrums and on the verge of an economic takeoff, according to two visiting foreign economists.

The Philippines under President Benigno Aquino III has the “best chance” of becoming a tiger economy in Asia as emerging markets led by China have started slowing down, while the debt crisis in the euro zone and the faltering United States economy continue to spook the markets, said Drs. Tyler Cowen and John Nye.

Cowen and Nye, who are both professors at the George Mason University in Washington, D.C., were two of several foreign speakers at the inaugural conference on Friday of the Angara Center for Law and Economics, a think tank founded by Sen. Edgardo Angara that will undertake economic research and innovative public policy solutions.

Nye, who has been named executive director of the Angara Center, is also research director at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia, a founding member of the International Society for the New Institutional Economics, and in 1997 became a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford University.

Cowen’s most recent book, “The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better,” was one of the most debated nonfiction books in 2011.

Economic liberation

“The Philippines has strong economic fundamentals,” said Cowen, citing the economic gains of the two-year-old Aquino administration, English proficiency and the Filipinos’ belief in education as the key ingredients for economic liberation.

“I would say, maybe, it has the best chance. It really depends on human agency and human volition and making [the] right choices,” he said.

“If you’re asking what should we look for in a country to be a future winner, I would say look for rising growth, look for a relatively stable fiscal situation. I think skills in English will become increasingly important, a belief in education even though a country’s educational institutions may have problems.

“And if I ask myself those starting questions, and then I look out there in the world, and I look at the globe and turn it around, guess which country my eyes stop on?” Cowen said.

Nye cited the “hot money flowing into the Philippines” and the rapid transformation of the country’s telecommunications industry—from very few telephone landlines in the 1980s to almost 80 to 90 percent of Filipinos owning cellular phones today.

Seize the moment

Recalling how he had witnessed the ebb and flow of the country’s economy as the longest-serving senator in the post-martial law era, Angara called on Filipinos to seize the moment.

He noted that successive governments after President Fidel Ramos failed to follow through on reforms that earned for the country the title of “Asia’s next economic tiger” before the advent of the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

“I remember very distinctly—I was Senate president in the mid-1990s—that because of close collaboration between the executive and the legislature, we pursued a common agenda and nearly made it,” said Angara.

“For the first time in history, we had a surplus because we introduced the value-added tax, we revamped the central bank, the education system, the health system and such. But in the end, the promise of the Philippines becoming the new tiger economy didn’t materialize because, I think, we dropped the ball at the last minute, and in many cases that has been the story of the Philippines,” he said.

“We were unable to sustain because we didn’t pursue the structural reforms that would have pushed it and would have sustained it and made us a true tiger. Now, we’re back to that potential, that promise. The potential can only be achieved by a series of key interventions,” he said.

The senator mentioned key reforms in the economy such as in human capital, health, education, science and technology, research, renewable energy and infrastructure as the areas to support to achieve the sustainable growth that would trickle down to the poor.

Angara singled out infrastructure development as the one that would speed up the “momentum of change” since this would connect economic zones and big islands in the country.

“Unless you provide mobility to labor, then you get stuck in Samar or Leyte, and they’ll do anything to get to Metro Manila and create those slums. Infrastructure is key. How many airports do we have that are unflyable because there are no connecting roads?” he said.

Poor policymaking

Angara personally invited Cowen and Nye, among other experts in law and economics, both foreign and local, to tackle global economic reforms and to identify the key factors for achieving economic growth.

“Now is an auspicious time to launch the center. President Benigno Aquino III is projecting a strong economic takeoff for the Philippines—and the center is in a position to contribute toward making growth sustainable,” he said.

“This is a small, initial step toward trying to open the Filipino mind to the outside world. As all the speakers have said, we try to create new ideas, new insights so that we can join the global conversation,” he said.

Angara said he had seen the “poor quality of policymaking in this country.”

Opportunities in recession

“We have really good research and researchers, but we have no organized research on strategic areas—research that will support lawmaking and administrative and executive policymaking.”

The conference tackled wide-ranging issues such as global investment, human capital, corruption, international arbitration and enforcement, dispute settlements, and public policy issues in international trade and investment.

Cowen, ranked one of the world’s most influential thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, led the panel discussion on “Globalization, Innovation and Economic Growth.”

He enumerated the current economic opportunities for developing countries as well as the issues on institutional reform and how to take advantage of the slowdown in the largest economies.

“Recession creates opportunities. What is it you are doing now to move forward?” he said.

According to Cowen, the Philippines has joined the ranks of a select group of emerging economies that global fund managers and investors are seriously taking notice of. The others are Indonesia and a few sub-Saharan countries.

Cowen’s plenary address was followed by lectures from eminent scholars in the field.

Focus on 2 areas

Nye explained the interaction among human capital, social norms and the creation of institutions, and the importance of simple and consistent rules that are clearly enforced to address corruption.

To achieve long-range changes, he said the Philippines should focus on two areas: simplify the rules and further open up the market.

“The most important change is the mindset of protection and nationalism. There are good reasons to protect the Philippine economy, but there are also bad reasons,” he said.

“Isn’t there some compromise where we loosen up these laws a little bit? I’m not talking about removing these laws, just opening up enough to attract more investments, more development, more decentralization so we can hire more of those workers here in the Philippines,” Nye said.

He talked of ways to “transition” the agriculture industry.

“If you look at China’s development, a lot of their developments over the past 40 years boils down to helping more people move from the countryside to the city and turning more cities into development areas,” he said.

He ended with a question better answered by President Aquino and his economic advisers: “How do you make the policy good and credibly consistent?”

Other guest speakers included Dr. Alberto Simpser, professor Benito Arruñada, professor Tom Ginsburg, Dr. Yas Banifatemi, Dr. J. Romesh Weeramantry, Dr. Nils Eliasson, Dr. Chiann Bao and Prof. Jeff Waincymer. The day-long program was hosted by Cheche Lazaro of Probe Productions.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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