Interview: Gregory Domingo

How is the DTI working to boost the competitiveness of the Philippines on a global scale?

GREGORY DOMINGO: We are automating business registration processes at the national level. In October 2010 we cut the process of registering a business name from one day to just 15 minutes. Furthermore, in January 2012, we launched the Philippine Business Registry (PBR), which automates registration of sole proprietorships with five different government agencies. The PBR system will enable sole proprietorships to undertake various processes with a number of agencies. For example, they can register their business names at the DTI, get or validate their existing tax identification numbers from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and receive employer registration numbers from the Social Security System, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and Home Development Mutual Fund through the system. PBR cuts down the registration time from a week to 30 minutes. We have a number of other ongoing programmes to ease and reduce cost of doing business.

We are also building a lot of new infrastructure from rail lines to airports to irrigation projects to thousands of kilometres of new roads to support our future economic growth and prosperity aspirations.

What is being done to address concerns firms have about establishing a presence in the Philippines?

DOMINGO: We are facing issues head on. I believe no one now doubts President Benigno Aquino III’s desire and resolve to implement better governance structures throughout the state bureaucracy. The most important change in our situation now is leadership and governance. The president is steadfast and committed to eradicating corruption in our society, and our people and foreign trading partners recognise and acknowledge that his words are backed up by actions. His goal to clean up the bureaucracy has resulted in a lower than expected budget deficit for 2011 from P300bn ($6.8bn) in 2010 to under P200bn ($4.5bn) in 2011. A big part of that savings came from the reduction of corruption, not from lower spending. High officials are facing criminal charges, and all around the bureaucracy people and systems are being put in place to ensure transparency and good governance. Globally there is no more doubt about the sincerity and resolve of this administration to fight corruption. These are already showing tremendous improvement in investor confidence resulting in much lower credit spreads for Philippine debt and all-time highs in the stock market.

Efforts are also being made to reduce power costs. Additional capacity is coming on-line later in 2012 and more is in the pipeline over the next 3-5 years.

In line with the thrust towards achieving energy security and self-sufficiency, the government has been pursuing the exploration, development and optimal utilisation of the country’s indigenous energy sources to augment energy supply. The country’s energy potential is vast, and as such efforts are being made to develop energy sources that are cheaper to produce, in abundant supply and pose an insignificant risk to the environment.

What additional trade agreements or strategies are currently being studied?

DOMINGO: The Philippines’ trade strategy is evolving from its current multilateral trade system complemented with a number of regional and bilateral trade engagements. The country hopes that the Doha round of trade negotiations will be completed successfully. The Philippines will remain strongly engaged with ASEAN, its dialogue partners and respective trade agreements. The Philippines will not only diversify, but also strengthen many of its bilateral trade relations, particularly with major trade partners like Japan. To this end, the country has expressed interest in engaging with both the US and the EU in accordance with its economic development levels, institutional capacities and political realities.