Singapura, The Business Times, Inglês

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THE Philippines is “a very fertile ground” with a lot of potential still waiting to be tapped, and Singapore can play a role in the transformation of its economy, be it in master planning, training, or connecting local companies with global opportunities, said Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.

“We are ready to harvest the economic opportunities that the Philippines is on the threshold of exploiting at a grand scale,” he said in a doorstop interview with the Singapore media on Thursday (Apr 18).

He was wrapping up a four-day visit to the Philippines from Monday that kicked off the commemoration of 55 years of diplomatic relations between the South-east Asian neighbours.

Dr Balakrishnan added that many opportunities lie in economic transformation with new frontiers in the digital sector, especially in artificial intelligence.

Singapore is also keen on working with the Philippines in the renewable energy sector, and supporting the nation in establishing its carbon credit market. The minister highlighted that other new and emerging areas where both countries can collaborate include smart cities.

“In the case of the Philippines, because of its large geographical size; young, large population; and people who are hungry and willing to learn, there’s much more that can be pursued,” he said.

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There is significant interest from both parties in terms of business pursuits, noted the minister.

Singapore was the fourth-largest foreign investor in the Philippines in 2023 with 37.5 billion pesos (S$892.9 million) worth of approved investments, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority revealed.

In the same year, Singapore was the Philippines’ fifth-largest export market, while the latter was Singapore’s 16th largest trading partner in merchandise, according to Singapore’s Department of Statistics.

During his visit, Dr Balakrishnan called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Monday, and was hosted to lunch by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo on Tuesday.

The Singapore minister also met the Philippine business community during an engagement with private non-profit association Makati Business Club.

On Wednesday, he visited New Clark City, which is located within the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone in the administrative region of Central Luzon, as well as SIA Engineering (Philippines) and Clark International Airport.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (centre) with Filipino officials running the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone, executives of SIA Engineering in Pampanga in the Philippines, and other officials during his visit there on Wednesday. PHOTO: MARA CEPEDA, ST

Earlier, he noted that both countries are keen to strengthen collaboration in future-oriented areas such as the green economy, smart and sustainable infrastructure, innovation and start-ups.

In a joint press conference with Manalo in Pasay City on Tuesday, Dr Balakrishnan noted that Singapore businesses have confidence in the prospects of the Philippines’ economic growth.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (left) and Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo meet during a joint press conference at a hotel in Manila on Apr 16. PHOTO: AFP

Investments from Singapore businesses span areas such as real estate, hospitality, telecommunications, transport and logistics.

The Philippines is on track to remain as one of Asean’s star performers this year, after laying claim to the title of South-east Asia’s fastest-growing economy in 2023 with gross domestic product growth of 5.6 per cent.

Relations between Singapore and the Philippines were formally established on May 16, 1969.

“There’s a deep reservoir of goodwill, of trust, of gratitude, on the part of Singaporeans towards our Filipino friends and colleagues. They have made a profound difference to our society,” said Dr Balakrishnan, who described bilateral relations as “excellent”.

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