AUSTRALIAN businessmen are looking to invest a total of $40.4 million on a power plant and a hotel project in the Philippines, as they intend to maximize the country’s growing economy.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano witnessed last week the signing of letters of intent (LOI) from the Australian private sector. The LOI covers the development of a $10-million biomass power plant; construction of a $30-million hotel and residential place in Mactan, Cebu; and the construction of a $400,000 assembly facility for global positioning system (GPS) devices.
The biomass facility is to be spearheaded by FPC Funds Management Pty. Ltd. and Solid Energy Technologies Pty. Ltd. It is expected to be completed in May and will generate a total of 150 jobs—100 for tradesmen in the construction phase and 50 operators for the plant’s operations.
It will also assist 700 farmers in fuel-crop plantations covering about 560 hectares. The facility will supply power to locators inside the Cagayan Special Economic Zone, as well as those around it.
On the other hand, the Trend International Ocean Tower, a hotel-condominium in Mactan owned by JBC Ventures, is anticipated to break ground this year if all permits are awarded on time. The project is expected to employ at least 100 workers.
As for the GPS assembly facility, it will be funded by FLEETLogic Co. and its shareholders. Initial investment for the project is at $400,000, with the plant reportedly in running order by January next year.
In a speech before the Australia-Philippines Business Council, Lopez shared the persisting efforts of the government to provide support to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that will ensure their growth, development and competitiveness. The initiatives he cited were the Pondo Para sa Pagbabago (P3) program, Shared Service Facility (SSF) and market-access initiatives that aims to give long-term space for SME products.
The P3 is the government’s loan program for small-time retailers intended to outdo the onerous money-lending practices of loan sharks, such as the “5-6” (20-percent interest) scheme. On the other hand, the SSF provides SMEs with machineries, equipment, tools and facilities under a shared system.
Lopez also emphasized the need to develop the trade base between Manila and Canberra that can be done through complementation of booming industries. He said the two countries can focus on trade in agricultural commodities, shipbuilding, information technology and business-process management services, and construction under the context of the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
In 2016 bilateral trade between the two countries was valued at A$4.3 billion. On the other hand, Australia’s investments in the Philippines amounted to A$9.3 during the same year.
Lopez told Australian investors it is the best time to establish a business in the Philippines given the implementation of the new tax law. He said with the increased take-home pay of workers under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) law will widen consumer base and will improve the buying capacity of the population.
The TRAIN slashed personal-income taxes (PIT), with those earning P250,000 and below annually already exempted from paying PIT. However, additional taxes were slapped on oil and petroleum, automobile, sugar-sweetened beverages and a number of other products.