Saudi Arabia plans Philippines trade mission

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning to send a trade mission to the Philippines in September to explore opportunities in the country.

“There has been a recent interest of the Kingdom to look into opportunities in the Philippines,” Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto said during a forum organized by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

He said the embassy recently arranged a call between Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and the Saudi Minister of Investment wherein the possibility of sending a trade mission to the Philippines in September was raised.

As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seeks to transform its economy by diversifying and reducing its dependence on oil in line with its Vision 2030, it is on the lookout for quality investments both in the domestic and international markets across sectors through its Public Investment Fund.

“The Kingdom continues to find suitable and safe and worthy investments all over the world. This is where we should concentrate lest we be left by the bus,” Alonto said.

He said the Kingdom also wants to get in touch with the Philippine tourism secretary to discuss Saudi Arabia’s plan to develop its own tourism industry and how the Philippines could take part of it.

With Saudi Arabia developing the futuristic megacity project Neom, he said the Philippines should look into opportunities there.

For her part, PEZA director general Charito Plaza said the investments promotion agency wants to invite the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and investors to take a look at opportunities in ecozone development.

PEZA is pushing for the development of ecozones into townships which have facilities such as seaports, hospitals, and utilities to support operations of locators.

“In that way, we can attract investors because everything is found in the ecozone,” she said.

Another area PEZA wants firms from Saudi Arabia to consider is the development of agro-industrial zones.

“This could be one big source of food for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries,” she said.

PEZA has been actively promoting the creation of more economic zones, particularly in the countryside, to attract investments and generate jobs in these areas.

The agency recently partnered with the local government units of Hinobaan and Sipalay of Negros Occidental to work together for ecozone development.

It also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Technological University of the Philippines Visayas located in Talisay City in Negros Occidental, as well as with the University of the Cordilleras in Benguet to prepare students for the needs of ecozone locators.

For this year, PEZA is aiming for a seven percent increase in approved investments in ecozones from the previous year’s P95.03 billion.

For the first quarter, investments approved by the PEZA reached P25.38 billion, up 54 percent from the P16.50 billion in the same period last year.

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