[PHOTO - PRESIDENT Aquino addresses the 1st Anniversary Forum of Arangkada Philippines at the Grand Ballroom, Marriott Hotel, Pasay City, on Thursday. The forum is an undertaking of the Joint Foreign Chambers and other top investors and business leaders in one of this year’s most influential conferences to discuss how the Philippines can achieve its potential to become the region’s newest high-growth economy. In the photo are (from left) European Chamber of Commerce of the Phils. Inc. (ECCP) President Hubert D’ Aboville, Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Phils. Inc. (KCCP) President Eduard Eur-Gap Chang, Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Phils. Inc. (ANZCham) President John Daniel Casey and Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo. --GIL NARTEA / MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU]

MANILA, JANUARY 29, 2012 (ABS-CBN) By Max V. de Leon, BusinessMirror - The government only managed to start implementing about 55 percent of the 471 policy recommendations that the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) forwarded to Malacañang a year ago to spur economic development and boost investment inflows.

“It means that we are going forward but not fast enough,” John Forbes, senior adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce, told the BusinessMirror.

Earlier, the JFC said investors were beginning to take notice of the Aquino administration’s policy reforms and predicted that if all the recommended changes were followed, the country could attract as much as $75 billion in foreign direct investments.

In December 2010, the JFC submitted to Malacañang the “Arangkada 2010 Moving Twice as Fast” document containing policy recommendations and reforms that will catalyze the growth of the “Seven Big Winner Sectors.” These are agribusiness, business-process outsourcing (BPO), creative industries, logistics, manufacturing, mining, and tourism, medical travel and retirement.

The evaluators used the following ratings: one star for “no longer relevant,” two stars for “backward/regression,” three stars for “not ongoing,” four stars for “started,” five stars for “substantial progress,” and six stars for “completed.”

The overall ratings showed that 55 percent of the 471 recommendations received 3.5 stars and above, while 45 percent got 3 stars and below.

For instance, in the JFC recommendation that the government support clear long-term industry policy in increase GDP growth rate to 9 percent, the evaluators gave a two-star rating or backward/regression.

On the recommendation to pass the Cybercrime Prevention and Data Privacy Acts and the creation of interim solutions to address the primary concerns of industry stakeholders, the government only received a one-star rating.

The Aquino administration also got one-star ratings for the recommendations to strengthen the “Pro-Performance Team,” credit enhancement to support project financing and power supply agreements of new generating projects, modernization of the Port of Batangas, and review of the need to impose travel tax, among others.

The government, however, managed to earn the highest six-star rating for the identification of champions in Congress that will sponsor bills and work for the passage of BPO-related laws, creation of reasonable timetables to address the registration period of BOT (build-operate-transfer) projects, expansion of mobile phone services in remote areas, organization of meetings to improve services at Batangas Port, and allowing firms to that provide same-day services to overseas clients to substitute days off with pay without holiday premiums.

John Payne, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said that among the notable failures of the administration was the slow passage of various critical pieces of legislation, progress in judicial reforms, and problematic mining situation.

But Payne said they are hoping that the government would achieve 65-percent implementation ratings by this year.

Henry Schumacher, external vice president of the European Chamber of Commerce, said a 55-percent implementation rating is not yet enough to provide the investors a high level of confidence.

“The 55 percent means the implementation of the recommendations has started. However, the level of confidence is still tied to consistency in government policies,” Schumacher said.

He said the JFC will continue to monitor the government’s implementation of their recommendations and issue criticisms for those that are not moving.

Forbes said the JFC recommendations are important because right now, the foreign investors “are passing us by.”

FROM BUSINESS  MIRROR ONLINE Home Top News Aquino: Global uncertainty to reward ‘stable’ nations like PHL

Aquino: Global uncertainty to reward ‘stable’ nations like PHL Thursday, 26 January 2012 22:24 Mia M. Gonzalez / Reporter

President Aquino said on Thursday that while the global economic uncertainty has slowed down growth in major markets, it stands to “open doors” for countries that have “displayed relative stability” like the Philippines.

At the Arangkada Philippines Forum at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City, Mr. Aquino also addressed concerns raised by members of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines, which ranged from the government’s thrust in agriculture, to high power rates, climate change and the government’s mining policy.

He said forecasts have a “common message”—that 2012 “is going to be a challenging year for the global economy, particularly in the West” and cited the credit-rating downgrades of France and Italy, the uncertain fate of Greece, and the prevailing cautious optimism even with signs of a recovering US economy.

The President said that while such developments will affect Philippine exports and the dollar remittances of its overseas workers, they will also “open doors for countries that have displayed relative stability,” among them, the Philippines.

“Capital has been looking eastward; investments have already begun to gravitate toward emerging markets, and the Philippines is among those countries that are increasingly being mentioned in this conversation,” he said.

He cited the study of Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp. (HSBC) that the Philippines will be the 16th largest economy in the world by 2050, and joked that by then, “as a very senior citizen of this country, I hope to be benefiting from an expanded social safety net.”

Mr. Aquino said his administration is bent on attaining inclusive economic growth, which “breeds stability” and is, therefore, “a shield against unrest.”

“It allows people to buy into the system, because they see that hard work pays off, and that their government is doing its very best to make sure that no one indeed gets left behind,” he said.

In response to questions in his open forum with the JFCP, Mr. Aquino said manufacturing is a priority of his administration, and the government is working on bringing down electricity rates by hastening “the open access to have the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market really fully functional.”

“Full open access is expected to happen by August of this year,” he said.

Energy Secretary Rene Almendras, who was with the President, said the schedule of the Department of Energy for full open access “is to have it by August with a little allowance for slippage.”

“The initiatives to get there is already ongoing. Private sector participation is very well under way. We are bidding out the infrastructure requirements, the software and the upgrading…. Yes, open access will happen this year and hopefully by August,” he said.

On the issue of feed-in tariff (FIT) rates, Almendras said “it should happen maybe soon.”

“There are ongoing discussions to bring all the parties together. Our democracy in the Philippines requires that everybody is listened to and engaged. And we are very close to a win-win solution and as I said it will happen soon. It will not happen next year, OK. Definitely not next year. It will happen a lot sooner that expected,” Almendras said.

Answering another question, Mr. Aquino said that when he goes to the United States toward the middle of the year, he will raise with President Obama the concern of Filipino-Americans who wish to retire in the Philippines, about the accreditation of more Philippine medical facilities by the US government.

“I will be having a visit with President Obama sometime, toward the middle of the year. You can count on my requesting him again for a consideration of accrediting more of our facilities,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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