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RP great place for investors--UK exec

By Veronica Uy
First Posted 19:22:00 01/15/2009
Filed Under: Investments

MANILA, Philippines -- Notwithstanding perceptions of the Philippines as a bad place for investors, the experience of most British companies operating in the country is it's a good place to do business, the head of an investment team from the United Kingdom said Thursday.

Tony Collingridge, of the United Kingdom Trade and Investment of the Asia Pacific Regional Team, told a select group of reporters he has met with four different UK companies in four different sectors, and they have described the Philippines as a "fantastic place to do business."

Collingridge arrived in Manila Wednesday and is leaving Thursday night.

He said two of the firms, one a civil engineering consultancy, the other involved in business process outsourcing (BPO), are planning to expand their operations in the country.

"Both of these companies are looking at expansion in the Philippines, and doubling the size of their work force," he said.

John Charles Chick, director of the UK Trade and Investment of the British embassy here, said the two other British companies, which are engaged in energy and construction, have expressed their enthusiasm in pursuing operations in the Philippines.

Collingridge said one of the things going for the Philippines is that its banks have generally escaped the global financial crunch.

Asked about the perception that the Philippines has been lagging behind its Asian neighbors, Chick acknowledged that the perception persists.

For instance, he said, the perception that it's easier to do business in Vietnam than in the Philippines has resulted in massive investments going into Vietnam.

"Perception is such a persuasive word. Companies incorporate risks their business plan and perception is part of that risk," he said.

"But the British companies in the Philippines have generally done well, and are pleased with the decision. However, the number of British companies in the Philippines is small," he said.

Collingridge said that the Philippines, together with the rest of Asia, has been receiving a lot of attention from the world's investors because most of the growth is happening here.

"And when there's growth, there's bound to be real business to be made...The problem with smaller countries like the Philippines is that everyone is looking at the big guys of China and India," he said.

"That's why the Philippines has to project their markets look more strongly," he added.

Collingridge said that in general, countries like the UK, which are open, well-regulated, competitive, and welcoming to foreigners do better than those that close their borders, restrict foreign ownership, and restrict the way business work.

Chick said that UK-Philippine trade relations have come a long way, with some companies like Standard Chartered operating here for 140 years.

In 2007, he said, the bilateral trade between the Philippines and the UK reached to $2 billion, with a ratio of 3 to 1 in favor of Philippines.

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