BoI tops 2017 investment pledge target

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Port of Manila
A worker stands on a container at the Port of Manila in this Feb. 24, 2015 photo. -- AFP

PROJECTS approved by the Board of Investments (BoI) — which accounts for the biggest amount of such commitments among the government’s seven investment promotion agencies — have exceeded an official P500-billion target for 2017 by nearly a fourth at P616.7 billion weeks before the year ends, the BoI said in a press release on Monday.

BoI said 2017’s preliminary amount — which the agency described as the biggest in its 50-year history — is 39.5% more than the P442 billion it approved last year.

The agency notched its previous biggest approved investment level in 1997 at P570.1 billion, “mainly from investments due to the privatization and deregulation of public utilities,” particularly of water supply and telecommunications.

Proponents of such investments are eligible for fiscal and non-tax incentives upon approval.

This year’s haul consisted of 426 projects — 13% more than last year’s 378 projects — that are projected to generate around 76,065 jobs upon full operation, up 12.5% from 67,634 jobs in 2016.

“We were happy then to just reach our P500-billion target. But to blitz past the P600-billion mark is something we are definitely ecstatic as this only proves the continuing confidence of the investors in making their business grow in the Philippines,” the statement quoted Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez as saying, adding that his department was “expecting sustained higher investments for the next five years.”

Mr. Lopez said further that latest data on investment pledges showed the momentum for overall economic growth — recorded at 6.7% in the first three quarters against the government’s 6.5-7.5% full-year target for expansion of gross domestic product (GDP) — “definitely carried over in the fourth quarter, investment-wise and further boosted with the frenzied economic activity given the holiday season.”

The same statement quoted BoI Managing head Ceferino S. Rodolfo said investment pledges went to “key manufacturing industries such as cement, sugar and petrochem,” among others.

Power and energy projects — which topped other sectors in terms of investment pledges — brought in P268.168 billion in approved investments, followed by infrastructure and public-private partnership projects with P127.658 billion, real estate and mass housing projects with P86 billion, as well as transportation and logistics with P15.909 billion.

“The increase in infrastructure projects this year supports the BoI’s push for the growth in economic activities outside Metro Manila and the ‘Build, Build, Build’… massive infrastructure program of the administration,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

Investment pledges in manufacturing — the sector which economists have tagged as the one that has the biggest potential for generation of meaningful jobs — nearly doubled to P96 billion from P49.259 billion in 2016.

Japan topped all other sources of foreign investment pledges BoI has approved so far this year, contributing P8.864 billion, mainly in green ship recycling, chemicals and glass manufacturing, among others.

It was followed by Singapore with P3.497 billion, Australia with P1.996 billion and the British Virgin Islands with P1.084 billion — all in renewable energy — as well as the Netherlands with P1.074 billion involving manufacturing.

The BoI said government efforts to disperse economic activities outside Metro Manila resulted in a 53% year-on-year decrease in approvals for the National Capital Region (NCR) and a 65% hike in those for areas outside NCR.

Still, the three regions that cumulatively accounted for 62.9% of GDP last year — Region IVA or CALABARZON, Region III or Central Luzon and NCR — attracted a big chunk of investment pledges.

Region IVA — consisting of the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (CALABARZON) south of Metro Manila — topped the country’s 16 other regions with P294.6 billion worth of BoI-registered investment pledges, accounting for 48% of the total by its own.

CALABARZON was followed by Region III (Central Luzon) immediately to NCR’s north with P123.3 billion, and Metro Manila itself with P44.3 billion.

BoI identified the other regions that cornered “substantial investments as Region 1 (Ilocos Region) with P39.6 billion and Region 7 (Central Visayas) with P35.6 billion.

Complete year-on-year comparisons were not given. — AGAM

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