Manila : Philippines | May 29, 2012 at 2:26 AM PDT
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Video Blog at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2012-02-10)

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat. Selamat pagi. Good Morning

It is a pleasure for me to be here in Kuala Lumpur, and I thank the Malaysian Government for the warm reception and hospitality accorded to me and my delegation. I thank everyone who came to participate in this interaction, and I commend the officials of the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, headed by Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya, as well as the officials of the Asian Institute of Management Alumni Association of Malaysia (Kelab AIM) and the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) for organizing this Philippines-Malaysia Investment Partnership Forum. Let me, in particular, thank some of our economic partners, like Genting Resorts World, MTD Capital, Petron/San Miguel Corporation, and a few others, for enthusiastically supporting this Forum.

I had long wanted to come to Kuala Lumpur, to see for myself the many wonderful things Malaysia has accomplished these past few years, and your invitation has made that not only possible but above all most pleasurable. I hope this visit would help rekindle the vibrancy of Philippine-Malaysian relations and bring about the exchange of more and frequent visits between our government leaders and the private sector at the highest levels.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Malaysia and the Philippines share strong political and economic interests. These can only grow stronger in the years ahead. It is for the political and economic leaders as well as the captains of industry and trade of both countries to make that happen. The opportunity for growth is here, the will for growth is here, the various ingredients for growth are here----it is for us to exploit all these elements for the material benefit and advancement of our two countries and their peoples.

Our partnership is not only bilateral but also regional. In ASEAN and BIMP-EAGA alone we have strong institutions, which offer maximum opportunities for political and economic cooperation. We have not fully exploited their potential; we must resolve to do better from here on.

There are of course some important hurdles to overcome. They are critical not only to our two countries but to the region as well. Peace and security is one of them, and this is defined for now by some recent problems that have arisen in the South China Sea and our continuing insurgency in Mindanao. In both instances, I am confident Malaysia and the Philippines will continue to work together until the issues are satisfactorily resolved in favor of peace and economic cooperation.

In the South China Sea, a broad regional approach to the problem awaits the wisdom and creativity of those interested in the permanent tranquility and stability of our international sea lanes. Malaysia, although also a claimant to the Spratlys, has not been drawn actively into any maritime non-incident, and could probably lend its wise counsel to the other parties.

On the Southern Philippine problem, Malaysia has been active as the third country facilitator in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. And under its auspices, the two panels signed preliminary decision points here in Kuala Lumpur last month. That increases our hope that a final settlement of our problem may not be too far off. We cannot thank Malaysia enough for providing this service, but I look to the day when the delegations coming here from Mindanao and the rest of the country would be businessmen, industrialists, investors and traders discussing various ways and means of enriching our commercial and economic ties rather than representatives of armed groups trying to end an unhappy secessionist war.

Since 1959, when a Philippine legation was first established in Kuala Lumpur, the Philippines and Malaysia have consistently tried to become the best of neighbors. This journey has not been without its twists and turns, but none of those have prevented us from getting to where we are now. The creation of the Philippines-Malaysia Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) in 1993 was an important step, and we have since signed agreements in various fields----defense, avoidance of double taxation, tourism and environmental protection in the Turtle Islands. Several more agreements are in the pipeline, and they involve cooperation in culture, health, information, education, agriculture, and transnational crime, among others. But better than any agreement on paper is the face-to-face dialogue and interaction, such as we are having now, between our public and private sectors.

In what is now acknowledged as an indisputable fact of the 21st century, economic power has begun to shift, and will continue to shift from the Atlantic to our region. The 21st century is destined to be our century, and more wealth will be created in our part of the world than anywhere else. This wealth will not be created in China or India alone; we will have an important share in it, especially if we work together to win the business and investments that should be our own. We could act either as fierce competitors or as close partners; either try to edge each other out of a market that is too large even for China or for China and India to control, or work together and combine our individual strength, along with our other ASEAN partners, in order to capture a larger market share of the business flowing into the region. It makes more sense for our economies to try to grow simultaneously together. I believe we are already headed in that direction.

In 2011, Malaysia ranked as the Philippines’ 9th largest trading partner, with total trade amounting to US$3.83 billion. In the same year, Malaysia stood as the Philippines’ 11th largest export market, with exports valued at US$1.396 billion; and the 8th largest import market, with imports valued at US$2.438 billion. From 2005 to 2010, Malaysian investments in the Philippines reached US$203.03 million.

The growth has not been one-sided; it has been two-ways all along, and the volume and quality of investments have grown. As of now, the most notable include the entry of San Miguel Corporation in Esso Malaysia Bhd (with an investment of at least US$610 million), the joint venture between PLDT Global and Axiata Corporation, the infusion of CIMB Bank of RM 1 billion or P196 million into the Bank of Commerce, as well as the expansion of operations of MTD Capital and Genting Resorts World, which is looking to invest around US$1.1 billion in a second casino expected to be completed in 2016.

So far, the Philippines has not managed to outpace its neighbors in Southeast Asia. Malaysia, for one, seems to have stayed ahead, despite the local effect of the global turbulence. Its GDP is projected to expand between 4% and 5% in 2012. The Bank Negara is confident that, “monetary policy will continue to facilitate economic growth while managing risks to inflation and the build-up of financial imbalances.”

But our growth has been quite respectable, and the country has certainly become an attractive site for foreign investment. In 2011, the Philippines registered a 3.7% GDP growth, but the Asian Development Outlook 2012, published by the Asian Development Bank, projects a 4.8% growth this year. Morgan Stanley includes the Philippines in its list of “breakout nations” while Goldman Sachs lists it among the “Next 11” countries. Farther in the horizon, Global bank HSBC sees the Philippines becoming the 16th largest economy in 2050.

Considering these realities, both countries could explore and undertake enhancement of bilateral trade and investment under the Philippine Government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), to guarantee a dynamic business relationship, especially at this time of global economic difficulty.

We have opened new opportunities for foreign and local investments in infrastructure, food production, energy, housing, real estate and tourism to make it worthwhile for foreign investors to come in. It is time for us to see more Malaysian investments in the Philippines. Indeed, they could participate in the Philippine Government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program without at all scaling down their participation in Malaysia’s own Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

As Chairman of the Philippines’ Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), I take this opportunity to especially invite Malaysia’s financiers to enter into joint ventures with their Filipino counterparts on housing development and mass housing. We have to build 3.7 million units in the next few years, and it would be a pleasure to see our Malaysian friends become part of this great social undertaking. This is one business opportunity where the rewards are high, not necessarily in terms of financial returns alone but above all in terms of the physical satisfaction of having helped provide homes for millions and transformed the landscape across the nation. Of course, the investment opportunities elsewhere are limited only by one’s imagination.


Ladies and gentlemen

I have gone this far to give you a broad view of the partnership that awaits the captains of industry of our two countries. But I did not come here simply to deliver a speech to our Malaysian friends. I have come to help facilitate an earnest conversation between some of our top CEOs in the Philippines and their Malaysian counterparts. Having made the opening statement, I urge you to continue this conversation at technical level, guided by the Filipinos’ “bayanihan” spirit and the Malaysian “gotong royong” of working together.

I hope that with our initiative here this morning, we have begun something that will carry on for the rest of our relations as the best of Southeast Asian neighbors.

Terima Kasih. Thank you very much and may you all have a pleasant and productive morning.

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A general view of Malaysia's parliament sitting during its opening at Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur
A general view of Malaysia's parliament sitting during its opening at Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur
Bessy60 is based in San Pablo, Southern Tagalog, Philippines, and is a Reporter on Allvoices.
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