Freeman Cebu Business

Pinoy workers remain Phl’s competitive edge

Carlo S. Lorenciana - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Aside from the good investment ratings the Philippines has gained recently, the Filipino workers remain the country’s competitive advantage and are the ones really drawing in foreign investors.

Lilia De Lima, director general of Philippine Economic Zone Authority, said Filipino welders, engineers, technicians and other workers are among the best in the world.

“Our competitive edge continues to be our Filipino workers,” De Lima said during the 20th anniversary event Sunday of Tsuneishi Heavy Industries (Cebu), Inc., which is one of the biggest industrial employers in the country. THICI is a joint shipbuilding firm between Tsuneishi Group of Japan and Cebu-based Aboitiz Group.

Japan is PEZA’s number one investor, she said, encouraging more foreign businessmen to invest in the country to create more jobs.

“This country -- now at this point -- is the best country to invest in,” the PEZA director said, citing the investment grade rating upgrades the country has received from global debt watchers. These include Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, Korea’s National Information and Credit Evaluation Ratings, Inc., Moody’s Investors Services, Rating and Investment Information, Inc. of Japan and Fitch Ratings.

“Investment rating agencies have given us positive grades. The Philippines is now very much in the radar screens of every foreign country,” De Lima noted.

She told Japanese companies particularly THICI and the Aboitiz Group to bring in more projects and develop more economic zones in the country to answer the demand for employment.

Phl shipbuilding

The leading shipbuilder has put the Philippines as fourth biggest shipbuilder in the world -- behind Korea, Japan and China. It also created jobs and generated exports and technology transfer, she said.

Jon Ramon Aboitiz, chairman of Aboitiz and Company, said the two-decade presence of the Japanese shipbuilder is proof that a world-class facility can be built in the Philippines. He noted the nation can take the lead in the global shipping industry with its experience and competence.

Hitoshi Kono, THICI president, said the Philippines has a big potential of becoming the mother shipyard in Southeast Asia, with Balamban, Cebu being the shipbuilding capital of the country.

One way to improve the shipbuilding industry, he said, is for the workforce to be equipped with human resources education and necessary tools and technical skills in shipbuilding.

Kono said their company has wanted to capitalize on the country’s economic growth and competent Filipino employees.

Tsuneishi said shipbuilding is an important driver of the nation's development as marine logistics is an important part of the economy.

He already said before Tsuneishi has projected P36 billion in revenues this year. The firm has already delivered 193 ships for the last 20 years, including ship orders made this year, bringing its revenues to P250 billion.

The firm plans to produce 25 to 35 ships every year in the future, from the current 21 ships per year.

Impact to the town

For his part, Provincial Board member Alex Binghay of third district stressed the economic surge Western Cebu, particularly Balamban town,  has experienced due to the shipbuilding operations here.

The then fourth class municipality with a yearly budget of P20 million only has now become a first class town with P250 million budget every year.

“It goes to show that, until today, investments are keep coming in this town,” he said of a retirement center venture and the growing presence of banks and ATMs in the locality. “These investments are not only in terms of commerce but also tourism.”

The shipbuilder currently employs close to 14,000 people including subcontractors.

Binghay said a perfect example of countryside development is Balamban which was once a sleepy town but has now become progressive. (FREEMAN)


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