Saturday, August 25, 2007

WHY INVEST IN THE PHILIPPINES NOW

MANILA, AUGUST 16, 2007 (STAR) BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET By Wilson Lee
Flores - From August 23 to 26, the young Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs
of the Anvil Business Club and our peers in the Young Entrepreneurs of
Malaysia will co-sponsor and hold the grand launch of the “First
Asian Entrepreneurs Business Exchange” at the IOI Putrajaya Marriott Hotel
in Kuala Lumpur. Anvil just came back from week-long visits to Singapore
and Thailand, and is again scheduled in September to go to Quanzhou City in

Fujian province and Jiangsu province in eastern China to promote
economic exchanges with young entrepreneurs and top government leaders.

At recent Anvil dinners hosted by Merrill Lynch top bosses from
Malaysia and Nomura Securities officials from Hong Kong — both meetings held
in Shangri-La Hotel Makati — Merrill Lynch executives forecast that
Philippine stocks would be among the best for investments in the world
and were upbeat about the Philippines’ economic future. Despite the
volatility of the US stock market in recent weeks due to concerns about the US
economy, I will tell young entrepreneurs from all over Asia to invest
in the Philippines now for numerous reasons, some of which are listed
here:

1. Political stability and economic reforms. In the last three years
of the unpopular presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, her top priority
now will be to cement her legacy in the annals of history so that people
will remember her more for her admittedly substantial economic reforms than
her many unpalatable political controversies. We should give her credit for
her very unpopular and yet gutsy economic initiatives such as the Value
Added Tax, her persistent efforts to seek balanced budgets, and other
economic reforms. But we need more! For the opposition and other politicians
hoping to succeed her in 2010, nobody would want to rock the boat now or help
instigate a coup because the main beneficiary would be Vice President Noli de Castro, who also
seems to be considering a possible presidential bid in the 2010
election.

The Philippines will therefore enjoy relative political tranquility
from now up to 2010, thus making it ideal for increased investments. Whoever
can assure the Philippines of sustained economic development after 2010
and attract more investments deserves to win as the next president of
the republic!

2. Boom in non-traditional industries. The Philippine economy will
greatly benefit from rising new industries such as mining, tourism,
business process outsourcing (BPOs) and call centers, with
multi-billion-dollar investments now pouring in. These new industries
are, fortunately for the Philippines, dollar-earning businesses which can
maximize the country’s competitive advantages in sheer wealth of
natural resources, beautiful tourism attractions in 7,107 tropical isles and a
large pool of English-language-proficient manpower.

Unlike India, a former British colony steeped in their own local
Bollywood, the Philippines speaks American-style English and is crazy
about Hollywood; thus I believe we are miles and miles ahead of India
in BPO and call-center potential since the US is still the largest economy
on earth with increasing requirements for outsourcing! These are among the
many golden opportunities for new investments for all international
entrepreneurs.

President Gloria Arroyo and the whole government should invest our
limited funds in strengthening these advantages through better
English-language and math/science education, instead of too many
unessential courses from primary school to college. Those shameless
politicians, bureaucrats or other people caught sabotaging Philippine
education by over-padding public school-building expenditures,
sub-standard textbooks or other crimes that negatively affect the
youth’s education should be publicly shot in the Luneta!

Mining is another winner for the Philippines, which all international
investors should rush into before it’s too late. An influx of Chinese
and other foreign firms are now tying up with local partners to go to
Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Palawan and other formerly economically
backward places to venture into lucrative mining enterprises.
Hopefully, there will be more international entrepreneurs who will help provide
capital, technologies and overseas markets for more new Philippine
mining ventures, because these businesses can directly benefit the rural
masses with new infrastructure and new jobs.

The prospect of huge mining bonanzas is now encouraging the seemingly
Manila-centric national government to finally pour billions of pesos
into new and better roads, ports, bridges, public utilities and even local
airports for some of the poorest rural provinces, therefore spurring
increased economic development never before seen in these far-flung
areas.

3. Business leaders increasing investments. Not only are the business
leaders John Gokongwei Jr., with his expanding Cebu Pacific Air and
Robinsons Land; Henry Sy with his SM malls, tourism and banks; Lucio
Tan with his factories and new Eton realty ventures; the Zobel Ayalas with
their Ayala Land and BPI; and Manny Villar of housing developer Vista
Land increasing their long-term investments, other, younger entrepreneurs
are also investing in large-scale and more long-term ventures.

Business leaders expect real growth to continue in the economy, with
a boom in consumer spending from a population already pushing past 90
million people and nearly 10 percent pumping in foreign exchange as
overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

One example is TKC Steel, a quiet new back-door listing on the
Philippine Stock Exchange controlled by media-shy, low-key
industrialist and former iBank founder Ben Tiu. TKC has already attained its 2007
targets and is upgrading facilities with expectations of higher
profits. Tiu declined to give an interview, but confirmed that their projects
will bring good news to the Philippine economy, which now also needs more
manufacturing.

Named after his late father, the industrialist Tiu Ka Cho, TKC Steel
now owns the massive 50-hectare Zhangzhou Stronghold Steelworks Limited in
Zhangzhou City, just 15 minutes away from Xiamen City in Fujian
province, south China. It manufactures giant steel pipes for export and for the
booming infrastructure requirements of China. What is most significant,
Ben Tiu said that TKC Steel owns Philippine steel mills that will soon
be modernized to become the first-ever integrated steel mill in the
Philippines, with estimated investments of P8 billion, to be located
either on their existing vast properties in Cagayan de Oro City or
Iligan City.

As an expression of unshakable confidence in Asia’s future at a
time when the US economy seems to be faltering, the Tiu family has recently
launched their Sterling Bank of Asia and will invest in more high-end
tourism ventures such as the tearing down of the old Gilarmi Apartments
along Makati’s Ayala Avenue to give way to their 62-story Discovery
Premium project.

Once ASEAN’s economic laggard due mainly to selfish political
conflicts, the Philippines seems to have no way to go now but up in economic
expansion and steady development. With no more life-and-death political
pressures for survival, President Arroyo hopefully will vigorously set
the national direction of focusing all our energies and resources on
enhancing Philippine global competitiveness, inviting more foreign investors to
put their money here (beyond fast-buck stock market speculation), and
really strengthen economic reforms!

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Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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