A whiff of fresh air: Local taipans investing in PH infra, energy

A whiff of fresh air: Local taipans investing in PH infra, energy

/ 05:01 AM March 07, 2024

Newly appointed Finance Secretary Ralph Recto’s assurances to foreign capitalists on the ease of doing business in the country comes as a welcome whiff of fresh air. President Marcos’ erstwhile economic team had failed to stir excitement among foreign investors after more than a year in office.

Credibility seems to be our biggest problem because other countries in the region are getting a bigger share of foreign direct investments (FDI). The sudden interest of local industrialists, led by San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) Ramon Ang, to go into long-term investments in infrastructure and natural gas exploration is cause for optimism. An estimated trillion pesos’ worth of natural gas beneath the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao can now be tapped as part of our gradual transition from coal/oil-based power sources to alternative fuel, a goal in which 75 nations, the Philippines included, have signed on as they pledge to completely turn to green fuel by 2050.

Local taipans are now putting their money’s worth into the country’s long-term economic development. SMC has a good track record in its public-private partnership (PPP) with the government, notably in road infrastructure projects. The consortium of SMC and South Korea’s Incheon International Airport Corp. also won the contract for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) rehabilitation project with its bid that gave government 82.16 percent of gross revenue, excluding passenger service charges. This is more than triple that of the next best bid.

On the horizon is the projection that with a refurbished Naia, the airport would surpass the 45.39 million visitors it hosted in 2023. The influx of more tourists into the country could well exceed the pre-COVID-19 figure of six to eight million a year. Complementing this are the bridges and highways being built to connect most of the tourist destinations in the country, making travel by land faster, easier, and more practical.

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SMC is also negotiating with the Oriental Mindoro and Batangas provincial governments a deal to construct a 15-kilometer pontoon bridge costing P18 billion that will take five years to build. A floating bridge design was adopted to avoid damaging the seabed of the Verde Island Passage which is considered a center of biodiversity. The bridge is planned to span the Verde Island Passage in two parts. The first part is 6.4 kilometers long and extends from Barangay Ilijan in Batangas City to Verde Island. The second component spans 4.4 kilometers from Verde Island to Barangay Sinandigan in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. The Batangas-Mindoro bridge is touted to be the first floating bridge in Asia that will allow tall ships to pass through. In addition, the bridge will have pedestrian and bicycle lanes. The bridge will also be designed to withstand typhoons with winds as strong as 350 km/h. The shorter travel time on the bridge as compared to going by sea is a big boon to tourism in these parts.

For the longest time, entrenched businesses backed by political dynasties have effectively blocked FDI, as some families keep lucrative businesses for themselves, such as banking, electricity and power supply, telecommunications, agribusinesses, and mineral resources. Few long-term infrastructure in power and energy generation have been undertaken.

Our country is known for year-round festivities that tourists love; if we can double the number of tourists from eight to 16 million, tourist-related businesses can solve our unemployment problem. Hopefully, this new thrust in economic development by local industrialists under the PPP program would usher in a new era for the country’s development, and wean our government from incurring more foreign debts.

Marvel K. Tan,

Quezon City

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TAGS: Finance, Investment, opinion

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