Hong Kong, Philippines work to enhance relations

TIDBITS SNIPPETS ETC. - Marianne Go - The Philippine Star

Filipinos are slowly beginning to travel back to Hong Kong following continued efforts by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) to woo tourists from the Philippines, as well as renew and improve trade and economic ties between the two nations following the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the March 13, 2024 spring dinner celebration hosted by HKETO Jakarta at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, HKETO Jakarta director-general Libera Cheng reported a 25 percent increase in Filipino visitors to Hong Kong for January this year alone.

To further encourage more Filipinos to visit Hong Kong, HKETO Jakarta raffled off 10 Cathay Pacific roundtrip economy and one business class tickets to their guests that night.

Filipinos, before the pandemic, were among the top visitors to Hong Kong due to the visa-free access, the quick two and a half hour flight, the shopping and delicious Chinese cuisine.

Likewise, Cheng also pointed out that trade between the two nations has posted growth since 2019, showing resilience in bilateral trade between the two countries.

Based on HKETO figures, the Philippines is Hong Kong’s 13th largest trading partner in the world and its fifth largest in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN.

Total merchandise trade between the two economies in 2020 was $12.8 billion, a decrease of 6.2 percent over 2019. The average annual growth rate in bilateral trade between Hong Kong and the Philippines from 2016 to 2020 was 3.9 percent. In 2020, Hong Kong’s total exports to the Philippines decreased by 18.2 percent while imports from the Philippines decreased by 0.1 percent.

In 2019, total visitor arrivals from the Philippines to Hong Kong amounted to 875,897 - a decrease of 2.1 percent over 2018.

In response, Trade Undersecretary Allan Gepty, representing Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, said that Hong Kong ranks sixth among the Philippines’ trading partners in terms of total trade, fourth in the export market and 11th in import supplier.

Philippines - Hong Kong bilateral trade, Usec Gepty said, amounted to $13.58 billion, with a trade surplus of $7.38 billion in favor of the Philippines. Meanwhile, net foreign direct investments from Hong Kong, he said, amounted to $24.84 million, ranking ninth in the Philippines’ total FDI in 2022,  a testament to the two countries’ strong and dynamic economic ties.

Usec Gepty highlighted the recent developments in the ASEAN and Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) and the ASEAN-HKC Investment Agreement (AHKIA) as platforms for economic engagements.

The AHKFTA, he pointed out, is ASEAN’s sixth free trade agreement with external partners, after China, Korea, Japan, India and Australia-New Zealand. It consists of 14 chapters covering broad areas of market access liberalization, trade facilitation, rules to promote confidence in trade and cooperation aimed at facilitating trade in goods and services in the region.

Complementary to the AHKFTA is the AHKIA, which covers the protection, promotion and facilitation of investment.

These agreements, Usec Gepty stressed, “play an important role in strengthening economic relations between ASEAN as an integrated market and Hong Kong as one of the world’s leading trade and investment powerhouses. The agreements also contribute to a deeper regional economic integration in the region.”

The Philippines, Usec Gepty added, “is optimistic and looks forward to broader liberalization and deeper economic engagements, including possibly through Hong Kong’s participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would create more trade and investment opportunities and stimulate economic development in the region.”

The Philippines, Usec Gepty said, has already signed the First Protocol to amend the AHKFTA, where all the parties adopted more liberal rules of origin for manufacturing products. The signing of the AHKFTA First Protocol, he said, “would accelerate trade through simplified export requirements between ASEAN and Hong Kong.”

The Philippines, he said, looks forward to the entry-into-force of the First Protocol of the AHKFTA as it will be an important milestone to further strengthen economic cooperation between ASEAN and Hong Kong.

The implementation of the AHKFTA and AHKIA, and the First Protocol of the AHKFTA, he continued, “will see more growth and opportunities in our trade and investment relations.  And, the Philippines can well serve as Hong Kong’s complementary hub in the region.”

Ruining a good reputation

A popular pizza brand, which achieved viral success after opening a small store in Makati near Rockwell, is ruining its reputation and the reputation of its landlord in Greenhills by trying to evade paying the proper taxes, not properly reporting its sales,  and not implementing the law-mandated senior citizens discount.

This artisanal pizzeria place refused to give the mandated 20 percent senior citizens discount to me and my husband for two separate orders of pizzas, which we fully consumed on the premises, on the flimsy excuse that each of the pizzas is intended for two people, which, thus, entitles us to only a 10 percent discount each, plus the 12 percent VAT which they also incorrectly computed! Take note, however, that they serve only one dinner plate size of pizza.

They initially refused to give us an official receipt and merely gave us the order slip which does not contain their company’s TIN number. Upon being forced to give an official receipt, however, the said sale did not include the 10 percent senior citizens discount and it had a wrong VAT discount. So, I presume they do not report the proper sales volume to their landlord and to the Bureau of Internal Revenue while bilking their senior citizen customers.

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