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Mohammed discusses ties with Arroyo

By Criselda E. Diala



Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo marked her two-day visit to the UAE by overseeing the signing of several Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with business houses in Dubai.   


Arroyo, who held talks with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, encouraged UAE companies to invest in the Philippines.


“I thank you for your hospitality and your kindness to our Filipino workers, but today I’m interested in getting investments [from the UAE] to the Philippines,” she said. The Philippine business delegation accompanying the president signed an MoU with Dubai World subsidiary Jafza International for an estimated $250 million (Dh918m) project with the Philippine’s Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, to be implemented over the next five years. The agreement includes a consolidation of four areas within the Subic Bay Freeport to form an adjacent industrial/logistics zone within the Freeport as well as the renewal and re-alignment of a residential and leisure area.


Another Dubai World subsidiary, DP World, currently operates the Port of Manila and is considered the biggest taxpayer of the city of Manila, Arroyo said.


“We are here in pursuit of our foreign policy, which includes economic diplomacy. An aggressive foreign policy is essential to the lifeblood of [our country]. We are here to meet investors, especially those who have expressed interest in investing in the Philippines,” she said.


In addition to the port project, Dubai World has also expressed interest in developing a beach resort in one of the archipelago’s islands. Arroyo said Dubai World’s introduction to the Philippine’s growing tourism industry is coming at a time when the country is witnessing the construction of other world-renowned hospitality brands such as Fairmont, Raffles, Kempinski, Grand Hyatt and Marriott.


Shangri-La hotels is also scheduled to open its sixth portfolio in the Philippines.


“Our efforts are raising investor confidence. The Philippines has reached a new level of maturity and stability with some of the strongest macro-economic fundamentals in a generation. We have aimed high and have met the challenge,” Arroyo said. She said economy was witnessing a new level of confidence.


Global credit rating firm Moody’s upgraded the Philippines to positive on January 25, citing the country’s “progress in stabilising public sector finances and an easing in the government’s dependence on external financing”. Foreign firms that have set up offices in the Philippines include FedEx, UPS and Texas Instruments, among others.


South Korean shipping company HanJin has also invested into the building of two shipyards, making the Philippines the fourth largest shipbuilding location in the world.


Arroyo enumerated the economic progress that the Southeast Asian country has recently made, such as the strengthening peso, uphill movement of the stock market, lowering of the national debt and the unemployment rate. The peso made vast gains last year and settled at Php40 against the dollar in 2007, from Php45 a year earlier. “The strengthening peso has helped offset the impact of the rising cost of oil. It contributed to lowering the price of imports. Our efforts are paying off. Today the Philippines is on the path to permanent growth and stability,” the president said.