News Commentary

How business leaders make a better Philippines

Rupert Paul Manhit - Philstar.com
Bright lights outlining a cluster of buildings from Makati City reflects on the quiet Pasig River as seen from Mandaluyong City on Monday night, Dec. 28, 2021.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

Investments shape the economic landscape by not only stimulating overall growth and development but also creating jobs and livelihood opportunities, ensuring income security, and enhancing productivity. By promoting productivity through technological advancements and infrastructure development, investments drive sustained economic progress, ensuring a more prosperous and inclusive society.

In recent months, the Philippine government has pushed for policies that aligned with this goal. For instance, Executive Order No. 18 instituted “green lanes” for strategic investments. This aims to streamline and expedite the procedures in acquiring licenses and permits for investments. The approach reflects the government's commitment to creating a more investor-friendly environment, emphasizing efficiency and ease of doing business to attract both local and foreign investment.

In fact, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the approved total foreign investment projects during the third quarter of 2023 amounted to P27.30 billion, indicating a year-on-year increase of 109.3%. Singapore emerged as the top source of these pledges, accounting for 47.8% of the total investment commitments, followed by Taiwan (13.3%) and the United Kingdom (11.2%).

By industry, the manufacturing sector secured the predominant share in investment pledges, garnering P16.43 billion, equivalent to 60.2% of the overall total. Other notable sectors included administrative and support service activities (15.7%) and real estate activities (15.5%). These foreign investment initiatives are anticipated to yield approximately 19,000 jobs.

Notably, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. recently issued Executive Order No. 49, establishing the Office of the Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs (OSAPIEA) under the Office of the President. The EO states that this office will “ensure effective integration, coordination and implementation of the various investment and economic policies and programs of the Government.” 

Indeed, the creation of an office specifically tasked with monitoring and evaluating priority investments and projects is critical for attracting foreign direct investment by accelerating the fulfillment of investment commitments, consequently resulting in the creation of high-quality employment opportunities and driving economic growth.

The OSAPIEA will be headed by Frederick “Deck” Go, who was earlier appointed by the president in January 2023 to be his Adviser for Investment and Economic Affairs. In his former executive position within the private sector, he served as the director, president, and CEO of Robinsons Land Corp., the real estate subsidiary of the Gokongwei Group.

Go’s appointment has the support of the private sector and cabinet officials. Given the issues that the private sector continues to encounter, he is expected to provide strategic advice founded on his solid experience in the corporate setting and his time as presidential adviser. 

The appointment of a leader with a business background to a government role in investment brings practical industry knowledge and awareness of market trends. This enhances decision-making, aids in effective policy formulation, and promotes regulations that support economic growth and reflect the complexities of the business environment.

Realizing national prosperity is within the country's grasp. Achieving this goal necessitates a comprehensive, whole-of-Philippine-society approach, where the government collaborates closely with the private sector to foster a business-friendly environment and actively addresses the pressing concerns of civil society.

With the newly appointed Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs’ extensive experience and background, he is well-positioned to serve as a bridge between the private sector and the government, facilitating increased collaboration and synergy between these two essential pillars of our society. This collaborative effort can pave the way for more effective initiatives that address the diverse needs of the nation, leading to sustained economic development and prosperity for all.

While the newly enacted Republic Act No. 11966, otherwise known as the Public-Private Partnership Code, is a positive development as it optimizes public-private sector collaboration to ensure high-quality services and infrastructure in the country, a blanket legislation is still needed to address regulatory hurdles faced by investors. Priority investments or “flagship projects” can not only be limited to infrastructure projects, but also extend to job generating industries such as the manufacturing and agro-industrial sector.

The active participation of the private sector in driving investments and advancing priority projects in the country is a positive development. With its wealth of experience and resources, the private sector has proven to be a reliable partner for the government, showcasing resilience in overcoming economic challenges such as the detrimental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The appointment of a former CEO to a government role in investments is a promising step that holds potential for the nation's improvement in the years ahead.

President Marcos Jr. administration's move to appoint a performance driven leader from the private sector is a welcome development. Hopefully, he will bring together all sectors synergize and real solutions that will cut the yokes that have been tying down the economy for decades.

Private sector representatives in government possess the expertise needed to navigate and rebound from challenging circumstances. Hopefully, by the end of the PBBM administration, we can aspire not only for investments to thrive in the country, but also for the country to be governed by an agile, efficient, and trusted bureaucracy that will become a dynamic model able to respond to the evolving challenges of future political cycles.


Rupert Paul Manhit is the COO of the Stratbase Group and executive director of the Philippine Trade Foundation (Phils Inc.)

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