The Philippines is targeting to ship more farm goods to Papua New Guinea in a bid to revive its dormant trade activities with the tiny Pacific country.
In a roundtable with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Ministry of Finance James Marape on Wednesday, some of the country’s top business executives inquired on the trade and investment opportunities that could be utilized between the two economies. For one, Manila is seeking to bring in more processed food to Papua New Guinea in a bid to activate their underdeveloped trade relations.
Total value of traded goods between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea improved by 10.02 percent in February to $18.56 million, from $16.87 million during the same month last year. In January it was significantly higher at $61.2 million, up by 1.83 percent from the previous year’s $60.11 million.
However, Philippine exports to Papua New Guinea was only at $1.63 million in February, and even lower at $1.44 million in January, in spite of better trade activity during that month. This was why Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez is keen on exporting not only processed food to Port Moresby, but also electronics, machineries and equipment, and packaging materials and appliances.
“We are committed in having Papua New Guinea as a strategic economic partner through greater bilateral trade and investment ties, as well as substantive engagements in the Apec [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation]. We are optimistic that even as we develop broader links of friendship between our two countries, we can expand opportunities for trade and investment,” Lopez said.
The Department of Trade and Industry is also inviting its Papua New Guinea counterpart to engage in a bilateral economic dialogue through the Joint Economic Commission. As for the Pacific country, it is looking closely into investment opportunities in agricultural products, as well as oil and gas exploration in the Philippines.
O’Neill said Manila and Port Moresby can agree on an agricultural cooperation, in which the latter was invited to produce rice in the former’s vast farm lands that are not utilized well due to its small population. “We want to promote rice in Papua New Guinea, and we want it be a Filipino partnership rather than anyone else,” the Prime Minister said.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol welcomed the idea, and simplified the process by which the agricultural cooperation can be carried out. “Our relationship with Papua New Guinea in terms of agriculture will be simple. We will train their people, help them develop their areas and, in return, they will assure that we will have enough rice for our people,” he said.
That way, Piñol believes there will be mutual benefit for the two Apec member-economies. “We can help them produce their requirements and export to us the surplus. We can be assured of a steady rice supply. Philippine land resources are finite, but the population is growing too rapidly [that] the offer to use Papua New Guinea land for our rice makes sense,” he added.
Top business executives from International Container Terminal Services, First Pacific Co., LT Group of Co., SL Agritech, Jollibee Food Corp., Double Dragon, DMCI, Frabelle and SM Holdings Inc. were in attendance at the roundtable. A couple of Philippine firms engaged in fishing, such as RD Fishing Ltd. and Frabelle, have business establishments in Papua New Guinea.
The Pacific country will be hosting this year’s Apec Summit. President Duterte, along with a group of business delegates, is also scheduled to visit Papua New Guinea in November.