DUTERTE’S RE­LENT­LESS ANTI-DRUG CAM­PAIGN PAY­ING OFF

The Philip­pine leader’s sin­gle-mind­ed­ness may be start­ing to see eco­nomic div­i­dends

New Straits Times - - News - The writer views de­vel­op­ments in the na­tion, the re­gion and the wider world from his van­tage point in Kuch­ing, Sarawak

PRES­I­DENT Ro­drigo Duterte of the Philip­pines con­tin­ues to make head­line news with his re­lent­less and even ruth­less cam­paign to rid his coun­try of the drug scourge.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Malaysians — like many or­di­nary Filipinos — ap­plaud and ap­prove of Duterte’s “tough love” drive to bring a greater sem­blance of peace and or­der that is so es­sen­tial for the coun­try to ad­vance fur­ther eco­nom­i­cally.

The Philip­pine leader’s sin­gle­mind­ed­ness may be start­ing to pay eco­nomic div­i­dends. Not only are the Asian pow­er­houses of China and Ja­pan out­do­ing them­selves in lav­ish­ing eco­nomic largesse on the coun­try, but Malaysian busi­nesses are also wak­ing up to the coun­try’s un­tapped eco­nomic po­ten­tial.

Our cor­po­ra­tions and in­di­vid­ual in­vestors, un­like far savvier Sin­ga­porean ones, have over­looked the Philip­pines for too long, clouded in per­cep­tions as we tend to be by of­ten mis­lead­ing and dra­matic head­lines about the coun­try.

Those who have dared ven­ture onto Philip­pine shores are of­ten richly re­warded. Gam­ing gi­ant Re­sorts World was a pioneer when the in­dus­try was first open­ing up to in­ter­na­tional play­ers and now reaps hand­some first­mover advantages.

The same may be said of Al­loyMtd Group, a Malaysian in­fra­struc­ture play, which re­cently hit lo­cal head­lines with an eye­catch­ing bid of more than US$5.5 bil­lion (RM24.4 bil­lion) to con­vert the area around the for­mer Amer­i­can Clark air­base into the Philip­pines’ ver­sion of Pu­tra­jaya.

As with our own ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal, the Clark Ad­min­is­tra­tive City will do much to re­lieve the heavy con­ges­tion of Metro Manila, if com­bined with plans to con­vert Clark air­field into the new in­ter­na­tional air­port to re­place the se­ri­ously over­crowded one serv­ing the Philip­pine cap­i­tal.

Al­loyMtd is also bid­ding to ex­tend Manila’s Mass Rail Tran­sit net­work. In the words of the group’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Tan Sri Dr Azmil Khalid: “…the Philip­pines is among the fastest grow­ing economies in Asean and we hope to fully cap­i­talise on this al­most 100 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion mar­ket.”

The Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s em­pha­sis on rolling out sev­eral key in­fra­struc­ture projects — par­tic­u­larly in its cap­i­tal re­gion sur­round­ing Manila — will serve the likes of Al­loyMtd Group well, given its proven track record in de­liv­er­ing on such projects in the Philip­pines.

Philip­pine am­bas­sador to Malaysia, Jose Ed­uardo Malaya told this writer: “The resur­gence of the Philip­pine econ­omy which, with 6.8 per cent gross do­mes­tic prod­uct growth, is now the re­gion’s high­est, has caught the at­ten­tion of the in­ter­na­tional busi­ness com­mu­nity. Un­known to many is that the coun­try has ben­e­fited from rel­a­tively ro­bust eco­nomic ex­pan­sion since 2001.”

Malaya also re­vealed that the em­bassy had seen a marked in­crease in in­ter­est among Malaysian com­pa­nies, with nu­mer­ous in­quiries re­ceived about pos­si­bil­i­ties in agribusi­ness, par­tic­u­larly oil palm plan­ta­tion, in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment, IT and industrial man­u­fac­tur­ing.

The Philip­pines also chalked a 12-notch jump in the United States Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s an­nual rank­ing of global eco­nomic free­dom in 2017, ris­ing from the 70th spot in 2016 to 58th this year.

In­deed, the coun­try is per­haps best placed un­der Duterte to fi­nally re­solve its long-fes­ter­ing twin in­sur­gen­cies by Moro and com­mu­nist rebels, both largely cen­tred in the pres­i­dent’s home

FRI­DAY, MARCH 17, 2017 is­land of Min­danao.

Long ac­cus­tomed to po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity at home, Malaysians tend to view the Philip­pines through the prism of its ad­mit­tedly man­i­fold chal­lenges and to see the glass as half empty at best, de­spite the strides the coun­try has achieved in re­cent years.

The coun­try shows a rather amaz­ing agility in jug­gling many balls si­mul­ta­ne­ously. The gen­er­ally sunny dis­po­si­tion of its peo­ple in the face of of­ten ad­verse cir­cum­stances is eas­ily one of its great as­sets.

The Philip­pines’ rather ram­bunc­tious democ­racy may ap­pear alien and some­what in­tim­i­dat­ing to more se­date Malaysians and it also means the coun­try will not nec­es­sar­ily get from point A to B in a neat and straight line. Frus­trat­ing as this may be at times, it is an in­escapable fact that busi­nesses and in­vestors must grap­ple with all the time.

Ne­go­ti­at­ing the coun­try’s still for­mi­da­ble bu­reau­cratic thicket — while it has im­proved — re­mains a key chal­lenge, es­pe­cially for those new to the lo­cal busi­ness scene, and there­fore, re­quires much pa­tience and tenac­ity.

In­vest­ments ev­ery­where in­volve cal­cu­lated risks. The greater the risks, nat­u­rally the greater the re­wards. Pa­tient and due dili­gence will mit­i­gate against much of the known risks.

Malaysia has in­vested heav­ily over the past two decades to forge po­lit­i­cal peace in Min­danao. Again, progress has ad­mit­tedly been slower than we have hoped for thus far. Ap­petite for greater risk among Malaysian in­vestors in the Philip­pines will help speed up progress all round.

Our Philip­pine peace and eco­nomic ef­forts must go hand in hand so they re­in­force each other.

The Philip­pine’s Drug En­force­ment Agency of­fi­cers ar­rest­ing a sus­pected drug pusher dur­ing an anti-drug op­er­a­tion at a ceme­tery in Que­zon City, Metro Manila, yesterday. Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s ‘tough love’ drive to bring peace and or­der could help the coun­try ad­vance eco­nom­i­cally.

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