Philippines keen on UAE investments

Gulf News | October 07, 2008

By Babu Das Augustine, Banking Editor

Dubai: Ahead of the 5th Association of South East Asian Nations Finance Ministers Investor Seminar in Dubai, Margarito B. Teves, Finance Secretary of the Philippines, spoke to Gulf News about the potential for joint investment initiatives between the UAE and the Philippines.

GULF NEWS: A Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed between the UAE and the Philippines to find ways the Philippines can help the UAE ensure food security. What has been the progress on this MoU?

Margarito B. Teves: Our agriculture officials have already called on industry partners to support a proposal to craft a new law creating a national agency that will exclusively focus on the halal industry in the Philippines. This is in line with the Philippines' initiative to intensify efforts to become a major player in the $500 billion (Dh1.84 trillion) global halal market, so the UAE can count on the Philippines as a reliable supplier of food products permissible under Sharia.

The Philippine government has incorporated UAE comments and submitted the revised draft MoU to the UAE for their consideration. Should the UAE consider this version in order, we are hopeful that the MoU will be signed in December.

How much do Gulf remittances contribute to the Philippines annually and how does the government intend to tap into this growing section of population as a potential source of investment capital?

The Gulf is one of the major sources of remittances for the Philippines, accounting for 60 per cent of expatriate workers and sending an average of $1.6 billion of remittances in the past five years, with a peak of $2.2 billion of remittances in 2007. Remittances from the Gulf account for roughly 15 per cent of total remittances.

The government, spearheaded by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has implemented policies and initiatives that would improve the environment for OFW [Overseas Filipino Workers] remittance flows. The recent tie-up between a local telecommunications service provider and a global remittance company with extensive links with Philippine commercial banks is anticipated to further facilitate the electronic transfer of remittances. This partnership will service Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates.

Following the Filipino government's decision to open up the real estate sector to non-resident investors, how much interest have you seen from both expatriates and investors in the Gulf?

Non-residents are allowed to invest in the following areas in real estate: On ownership of private lands, up to 60 per cent foreign equity in a domestic corporation (Sec. 4 of RA 9182 or the Foreign Investment Act of 1991); on ownership of condominium units, up to 40 per cent foreign equity where the common areas in the condominium project are co-owned by the owners of the separate units or owned by a corporation (Sec. 5 of RA 4726 or the Condominium Act).

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