INVESTMENT PLEDGES approved by the Board of Investments (BoI) increased by more than 64% so far this year, the agency said.

Investments jumped by 64.65% to P137 billion as of March 19, compared with P83 billion in the first three months of 2020, Trade Secretary and BoI Chairman Ramon M. Lopez said in an online presentation on Wednesday evening.

Potential employment from these investments rose by 13.28% to 12,013 during the period versus 10,605 jobs last year.

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

The agency reached P1.02 trillion in approved investment pledges last year, or around 10% lower than the highest-on-record P1.14 trillion a year earlier and below the P1.25-trillion target set before the pandemic.

“We still reached a trillion level, so (it’s the) second highest,” Mr. Lopez said.

The bulk of last year’s total came from domestic infrastructure projects, including San Miguel Corp.’s airport project in Bulacan. Domestic investments in the first half of 2020 jumped by 166% due to the airport project, but foreign investments plummeted by 73% during that period.

To compare, BoI-approved investment pledges reached P617 billion in 2017 and P915 billion in 2018.

This year, the investment promotion agency is targeting P1.25 trillion in investment approvals, or 22.5% higher than last year’s tally as it anticipates more infrastructure projects to drive economic recovery.

Approved foreign direct investment (FDI) pledges among the country’s investment promotion agencies fell 71.3% to P112.12 billion in 2020, the lowest in three years, the Philippine Statistics Authority said.

FDI commitments are different from actual capital inflows tracked by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for balance of payments purposes. Net FDI inflows fell by 24.6% to $6.5 billion in 2020, from $8.7-billion net inflows in 2019, due to the “disruptive impact of the pandemic on global supply chains and weak business outlook,” the BSP said.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), another investment promotion agency, approved P13.19 billion in investment pledges this month.

The newest approved projects bring PEZA’s total to P24.5 billion for 2021 so far. PEZA green-lit P11.308 billion in investment pledges in January, or 139% higher than the P4.726 billion in the same month last year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lopez in the same presentation said that Small Business Corp. (SB Corp.) has released almost P2.6 billion in loans to more than 22,000 businesses.

Under the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program, the department was allocated P10 billion for lending to micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises from the Bayanihan II or Republic Act No. 11494.

Fewer small businesses have been applying for the loans amid low business confidence, Mr. Lopez said last month. — Jenina P. Ibañez