21 busi­ness deals cap Duterte’s Mid­dle East visit

Business World - - THE NATION - By Ian Ni­co­las P. Ci­garal Re­porter

TWENTY- ONE busi­ness-to­busi­ness deals worth $925 mil­lion were sealed on the heels of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte’s sev­en­day state visit to the Mid­dle East dur­ing the Chris­tian Holy Week, tap­ping the Gulf re­gion’s in­vest­ment po­ten­tial in ha­lal in­dus­tries as well as tourism, among oth­ers.

Mr. Duterte — who vis­ited Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, and Qatar on April 10 to 16 — is set to bring home 26,000 new jobs from the multi-mil­lion dol­lar in­vest­ment pledges, Trade Sec­re­tary Ra­mon M. Lopez said in a press brief­ing in Doha on Sun­day.

In Saudi Ara­bia, seven agree­ments be­tween Filipino and Saudi busi­ness­men worth $470 mil­lion were inked dur­ing Mr. Duterte’s visit there that could yield 16,000 ad­di­tional jobs in the Philip­pines.

The agree­ments, Mr. Lopez said, fo­cus on in­dus­tries like eco­zones for pro­duc­tion of ha­lal prod­ucts, tourism, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, agri­cul­ture, engi­neer­ing, and fine-din­ing lo­gis­tics. The trade chief, how­ever, de­clined to dis­close the names of the com­pa­nies in­volved in the busi­ness agree­ments.

Among the seven agree­ments from Saudi Ara­bia was a let­ter of in­tent (LoI) signed by Philip­pine Eco­nomic Zone Author­ity ( PEZA) Di­rec­tor- Gen­eral Char­ito B. Plaza and Saudi In­vest­ment Group (SIG) Pres­i­dent Shaikh Al Waleed Tuwai­jri — a copy of which was ob­tained by Busi­nessWorld.

In the LoI, SIG sig­ni­fied its “se­ri­ous in­ter­est” to in­vest $ 133.34 mil­lion in the Philip­pines par­tic­u­larly on in­dus­tries like agro- in­dus­trial pro­cess­ing, port in­fra­struc­ture lo­gis­tics and “other ex­port ori­ented/dol­larearn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.”

The Saudi firm also in­tends to put its money in other eco­zone projects, “specif­i­cally in ho­tel op­er­a­tion and man­age­ment, tourism, med­i­cal ser­vices and academy, and other projects as may be iden­ti­fied by PEZA.”

“(SIG) to­gether with its part­ner in­vestors sig­nify their co­op­er­a­tion to make King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia as a sig­nif­i­cant source of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment for the Philip­pines,” the doc­u­ment read, adding that the agree­ment is ex­pected to em­ploy 6,650 Filipinos.

To re­call, PEZA went on an in­vest­ment road show in Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia, and the United Arab Emirates ( UAE) last Fe­bru­ary, which re­sulted in a to­tal of $500 mil­lion worth of pledges, mostly ben­e­fit­ing the coun­try’s Mus­lim re­gions.

In 2016, Saudi Ara­bia was the 17th largest Philip­pine trad­ing part­ner out of 226, ac­cord­ing to Trade depart­ment data. Ap­proved in­vest­ments from the King­dom to the Philip­pines amounted to $4.14 mil­lion from 2008 to 2010.

AGRI­CUL­TURAL YIELDS

In Bahrain, Mr. Duterte wit­nessed the sign­ing of a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing be­tween AMA Group Hold­ings Corp. and Nader & Ebrahim Sons of Has­san Co. W.L.L. — an agree­ment worth $250 mil­lion fo­cus­ing on am­pli­fy­ing agri­cul­tural yields in Min­danao.

The project, Mr. Lopez said, is poised to pro­duce 560,000 met­ric tons of var­i­ous fruits with ex­port value of $ 280 mil­lion an­nu­ally by al­lot­ting an ad­di­tional 10,000 hectares of farm­land for agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion.

The Trade chief also said the deal is pro­jected to ini­tially gen­er­ate 3,500 jobs in the Philip­pines. But this could go up to 40,000 jobs once the project is “fully op­er­a­tional” in three to five years.

Bahrain ranks as the Philip­pines’ 79th trad­ing part­ner, data from the Philip­pine For­eign Af­fairs depart­ment show. Ex­ports to Bahrain in­clude avi­a­tion fuel, air­craft parts, house­hold ma­chines, and pasta.

Mean­while, im­ports from the King­dom in­clude alu­minum al­loys, mo­tor cars and other mo­tor ve­hi­cles, plas­tic trunks, woven fab­rics of syn­thetic sta­ple fibers, and trans­mis­sion ap­pa­ra­tus for ra­diotele­phony, ra­dioteleg­ra­phy and ra­dio broad­cast­ing or tele­vi­sion.

On the last leg of Mr. Duterte’s coun­try-vis­its to the Mid­dle East, 13 busi­ness deals amount­ing to $206 mil­lion were signed in Qatar that could bring about 5,770 jobs to the Philip­pines.

The agree­ments with Qatari in­vestors, Mr. Lopez said, in­clude de­vel­op­ment of eco­zones on tourism, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy ( IT), poultry, ha­lal food pro­cess­ing, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, man­u­fac­ture & ex­port fa­cil­ity of nanos­truc­tured car­bon, among oth­ers.

In 2016, Qatar ranked as the Philip­pines’ 32nd trad­ing part­ner, with bi­lat­eral trade amount­ing to $241 mil­lion.

The Mid­dle East re­mains the coun­try’s sec­ond largest source of re­mit­tances from overseas Filipinos, ac­count­ing for 28% of the to­tal or al­most $7.6 bil­lion in 2016.

Mean­while, data from the En­ergy depart­ment show that the re­gion was the Philip­pines’ source of 87% of crude oil, with 36.1% from Saudi Ara­bia, the coun­try’s top sup­plier.

The Mid­dle East hosts more than one mil­lion overseas Filipino work­ers (OFWs) and la­bor is­sues rank high on the list of Philip­pine con­cerns.

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