THE British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (BCCP) is retaining and attracting new members in the Philippines throughout the lockdown, with new investments possibly materializing in the long term.

None of their existing member companies have withdrawn their investments, BCCP Executive Director Chris Nelson said in a television interview on Monday.

“We’ve actually had some new members join during this time,” he said. “People are not leaving. In fact, where I would like to give slight encouragement is we’re actually getting inquiries and interest in the Philippines.”

In a separate phone interview, Mr. Nelson said the interested companies are in the energy, automotive, beverage, and food industries.

While the chamber has been engaging with the companies online, there may be some investment delays as the companies wait for restrictions on business travel to ease.

“Our understanding is that it’s quite restricted in terms of foreign visitors, and that’s important as well because we’re getting interest from business people about opportunities in the Philippines,” Mr. Nelson said.

The discussions are about long-term projects, with many possibly materializing after at least a year as the health crisis is still ongoing.

“Companies that we’re trying to deal with are looking long term. While of course this crisis is immediate and hopefully we’ll get a handle on it and move forward across the world, companies are thinking long term and want to build businesses over a number of years. They look at it in that perspective and that’s why I believe the Philippines is still attractive,” Mr. Nelson said.

The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) sees major investment decisions will be on hold.

“Given the significant impact of COVID-19 on businesses, majority of our members are inclined to maintain status quo or put on hold major investment decisions in order to focus on their post-COVID-19 recovery plans to ensure business continuity in the short- to medium-term,” ECCP President Nabil Francis said in a mobile message.

“Nonetheless, further liberalizing key economic activities must also be on top of the agenda of the Philippine government’s policy priorities to create an attractive investment and business environment,” he added, saying that other Southeast Asian countries have already started unveiling incentives and lowering corporate income tax rates to be more competitive.

Mr. Francis said the negative trend in foreign direct investments is not encouraging.

The Board of Investments reported a 71% decline to P84.1 billion in approved investments in the first four months of 2020 after the pandemic disrupted economic activity, with foreign investments dropping 80% to P13.4 billion.

Mr. Nelson said the chamber is supporting a move towards a more relaxed lockdown in Metro Manila, with localized strict lockdowns in higher-risk areas.

“People (in other countries) are now much more focused on localized lockdowns on specific areas, even on building sites… we think that’s the way forward,” he said.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) had recently requested the easing of travel restrictions, supporting the aviation industry in its request to gradually phase out the quota for international passenger arrival, resume international business travel, and allow some local air travel.

The BCCP continues to support the Accelerate Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) bill, a P1.3-trillion three-year economic stimulus.

More than 40 business groups, including other foreign chambers, backed the stimulus bill in June, saying that it will support the recovery of small businesses. — Jenina P. Ibañez