THE British business chamber said it continues to seek out investors in the retail as well as the food and beverage sectors despite the pandemic, banking on the recovery of the economy over the long term.

The chamber’s first online trade fair will see fewer potential investors than the pre-lockdown in-person meetings, British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Chris Nelson said in a phone interview Friday.

“We’ll have fewer companies than we’d anticipate at our physical events, but don’t forget (that in) our physical events, we’d visit like five or six cities. But we’re very optimistic that based on this success that it will lead to others,” he said.

Mall foot traffic has remained low throughout the lockdown, with the Trade department noting that it has remained below half its pre-lockdown levels back in July.

Listed property companies may continue to experience declining profits over the rest of the year, with researchers from brokerages AAA Southeast Equities, Inc. and Philstocks Financial, Inc. saying that weak mall traffic is being tracked as a recovery indicator.

Mr. Nelson is, however, optimistic about the return of retail in the long term.

“There are opportunities within the retail sector. Retail, we think, will come back,” he said, but notes that investors are looking at the longer-term situation and are monitoring the government’s pandemic-containment measures.

“What are the opportunities? Do you have a significant market here? Clearly, the Philippines has a 110 million (population).”

Foreign chambers have been supporting changes to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act to open up the sector to more foreign companies by lowering the minimum-paid up capital.

The Philippine Retailers Association opposes a drastic reduction to protect micro-, small-, and medium-sized businesses.

Investment interest would depend on the Philippine government’s encouragement of foreign direct investment and economic stimulus measures, Mr. Nelson said.

The Philippines was ranked the fourth most restrictive out of 84 economies on the FDI Regulatory Restrictiveness Index compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, based on 2019 data. — Jenina P. Ibañez