Cebu, Philippines (7 October) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo rolled out the red carpet for Indian investments in the country and moved for the integration of both countries' economies through the signing of nine (9) bilateral agreements.
In her recent visit to India accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano and Press Secretary Ingnacio Bunye, the Philippine President encouraged Indian investors to come to the Philippines citing the country's investor-friendly policies and a highly-reliable, efficient and productive workforce.
President Arroyo specifically cited her determination to pursue a sustainable energy program that would lift the country from its dependency on imported fossil fuel and at the same time help minimize greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming.
She added that the country is serious pushing for the massive propagation of Jatropha that will be used as diesel substitute adding that the Jatropha seeds could be exported to India for processing.
Aside from energy investments, the President also invited Indian resort and hotel owners to come to the Central Philippines for tourism investments as she pointed out that the Philippines has a lot to offer to the tourists such as pristine white sand beaches and scenic spots.
She encouraged them to consider the country in their next business expansion and to take advantage of the increasing tourist arrivals in the Philippines. Among the India companies that the President invited to invest here were Praj Industries Ltd., hotel and resort operators and film producers.
"We invite tourist and tourism investors to come over. We invite Indian hotel chains, such as the Tata Group and the Oberoi Group to look at, and consider the Philippines as a destination for your next projects. Ecotourism has become extremely popular and a growth sector in the Philippine economy," she said.
She also regaled the Indian film makers with the beautiful and captivating location sites in the Philippines for making movies; the Filipinos' creative talents, post production houses and other technical and logistical requirements.
As one of the neighbors of India in the East Asian region, President Arroyo told the press that she is looking forward to the revival of cultural ties and enhancement of economic, political, trade and diplomatic integration between the Philippines and India. "We are happy to be here to move the integration of our economies forward."
The nine (9) bilateral agreements
In the same India visit, the President signed nine (9) bilateral agreements that aimed to fortify the economic, political, security and cultural relations between India and the Philippines and these agreements are:
The Framework of RP-India Bilateral Relations and Agreement to Establish the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation are two agreements to identify priorities, set directions and lead RP-India relations to a new era in various areas of cooperation such as defense and security, health and medicine, trade and investments, energy, agriculture, tourism and culture.
The third agreement is the $150-million credit line from the Export and Import Bank of India. The President said that this loan hopes to finance transactions that will correct the lopsided nature of the country's trade in favor of India.
"With India now as one of the world's top economies with a new middle class of half a billion people, your internal market demand and domestic consumption can have a direct and positive impact on us in terms of job creation, balance of trade and investment," Arroyo told the Filipino-Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and India's Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Oberoi Hotel.
The fourth bilateral agreement is the RP-India Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism.
This agreement will enhance defense cooperation between the two countries as President Arroyo noted that defense cooperation must be more intensive that would include the exchange of military personnel and students; joint military exercises in non-combatant activities such as disaster response, peacekeeping, and other humanitarian actions.
"Indeed, terrorism is an international blight. If we are to fight terrorism together, we must strengthen our defense cooperation," Arroyo said.
The other agreements are on health and medicine. The Philippines is spending massively on health care that includes importing medicines from India as part of the Arroyo administration's program to cut by 50% the price of medicines commonly bought by the poor.
The President signed the Memorandum of Agreement in the Field of Health and Medicine and an Agreement between the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) for the purchase of $35-million worth of quality but affordable medicines from India.
Another important document is he Memorandum of Agreement on Enhanced Cooperation in the Field of Renewable Energy. The President told the Indian businessmen the country is developing its biofuels industry for "our energy independence, create jobs and keeps our nation clean for future generations."
She added that Praj Industries had informed her that they are ready to open their Philippine bio-ethanol plant soon and that the Philippines wants to explore joint ventures with Indian institutions to produce biofuel from sweet sorghum and Jatropha.
The President also said she has invited Indian corporations to participate in the privatization of the National Power Corporation (Napocor) and the National Transmission Corporation (Transco) as there were insinuations that Kapataru Power Transmission would join the bid for the December privatization of the national transmission grid.The Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation between the Foreign Service Institutes of the Philippines and India as well as the Memorandum of Agreement on the Waiver of Visa Requirements for Holders of Diplomatic Passports and Official Passports will hopefully liberalize the government's policy towards Indian nationals. (PIA-Cebu/MBCN)