THE PHILIPPINES has secured over P6.2-billion worth of investment pledges from four European firms, whose executives met with President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. in Brussels, according to the Presidential Palace.

Mr. Marcos met with European businessmen for a roundtable discussion on the sidelines of the Southeast Asian Nations-European Union (ASEAN-EU) Commemorative Summit, Malacañang said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

“I think that we have a good opportunity with some of the policy measures that have been taken from the previous administration and some of the policy changes that we have made at the beginning of this administration,” Mr. Marcos was quoted telling Unilever officials.

Unilever, a British multinational consumer goods giant, committed to investing P4.7 billion in the country as part of its efforts to upgrade its local factories through automation and digitalization, the Palace said. Among Unilever’s brands in the Philippines include Dove, Sunsilk, Rexona, and Knorr.

French shipbuilding firm OCEA S.A. also affirmed its commitment to build a shipyard in the Philippines worth P1.5 billion during the meeting with Mr. Marcos. The firm said the project is expected to generate up to 600 direct and indirect jobs in the country.

OCEA also agreed to work with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to help Filipino fisherfolk enhance their operations and to promote sustainable fishing.

SEMMARIS, another French company that manages Ringis International Market in Paris, said it was interested in developing an agro-logistics hub in New Clark City.

Benoit Juster, the firm’s executive director, told Mr. Marcos that the project would promote local production with fair prices to farmers.

“In Clark, we have carried out feasibility studies, so we have a masterplan and we have the estimation of the cost of the works. And so we can start quickly in Clark,” Mr. Juster was quoted as saying in the Palace statement.

Acciona, S.A., a Spanish multinational firm that engages in sustainable infrastructure solutions, said it would invest in developing renewable energy sources in the Philippines.

“To the extent of our possibilities… we are comfortable in your country, we find it welcoming and business-friendly, so we would like to make the Philippines one of our — if not our main hub for the Southeast Asia,” Acciona Chairman Jose Manuel Entrecanales was quoted as saying.

Calixto V. Chikiamco, Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) president, said the pledges from the European firms showed that investors see potential in the country.

“However, those are just pledges,” he said in a Viber message. “Foreign investors will want to see a more favorable climate backed by substance: better infrastructure, a level playing field and a rule of law, less bureaucratic hurdles, and ratification of RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), which will expand the markets for goods that they produce in the Philippines.

RCEP is the largest free trade agreement (FTA) with participating countries including the 10 ASEAN members, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. The Philippines and Myanmar are the last countries that have yet to finalize their participation in the trade agreement.

“The Philippines is expected to post robust growth next year and remains an important market for foreign investors given our demographic dividend,” ING Bank N.V. Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa said in a Viber message.

“We would like to see these investment pledges translate to actual foreign direct investments (FDIs) as this would signify their actual interest in the country as an investment destination.”

FDI net inflows fell by 8% in September amid a looming global economic shutdown, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported on Monday. — John Victor D. Ordoñez