THE Board of Investments (BoI) said approved investment pledges increased by 25% year on year in the first eight months of 2020.

Ang growth po ng investments natin from January to August of this year is actually 25% compared with the same period of last year,” BoI Managing Head Ceferino S. Rodolfo said in an online press conference with the National Economic and Development Authority on Thursday.

Investments in medium and long-term infrastructure projects have been continuous, he said.

The BoI accounts for the bulk of planned projects registered with investment promotion agencies (IPA).

Going into 2021, Mr. Rodolfo said Congress must pass legislation that can promote the Philippines as an investment destination. This includes the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), which would immediately cut corporate income tax to 25%

“We are working closely with the (Labor and Health departments) para ho mai-promote natin ’yung gradual reopening pa ng ibang sectors because what we have seen with the 10% unemployment, may unemployment pa rin po, masama pa rin po, but at least it was a drop from the 17.7% figure natin nung April,” he said.

In the first half, investment pledges with BoI had doubled to P645.3 billion, led mostly by the San Miguel Holdings Corp. subsidiary’s airport project in Bulacan.

Domestic investments jumped by 166% to P626.7 billion in the first half. But foreign investments plummeted by 73% to P18.6 billion from P68.9 billion.

The foreign direct investment (FDI) slump is expected to worsen as investors consider the country’s pandemic response and the contraction of the gross domestic product (GDP), the International Institute of Finance (IIF) said last month.

The country’s GDP contracted by 16.5% in the second quarter after many businesses closed down during one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns.

After the Philippines ranked fourth among 84 economies in an FDI regulatory restrictiveness index compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez reiterated a call for reforms such as amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA) and the Public Service Act (PSA).

Changes to the RTLA include reducing the required minimum paid-up capital for foreign companies that seek to enter the Philippine retail sector, while amendments to the PSA would lift foreign ownership restrictions in certain sectors.

Meanwhile, investments approved by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) — the second-biggest contributor — for the first seven months declined by 27% compared with the same period last year.

Foreign direct investments with PEZA slid by 26% to P36.26 billion, while local investments plunged by 63% to P15.75 billion. — Jenina P. Ibañez