More Japan firms set to invest in PH

Posted at 04/03/14 7:47 AM

TOKYO – More Japanese investors are set to invest in the Philippines while companies already in operations are firming up expansion programs, Philippine embassy officials said.

The Mindanao peace accord opens up the South for agribusiness and mining investments even as Japanese firms venture into creative content and game development, outsourcing and infrastructure projects, they pointed out.

Hans Siriban, second secretary and consul of the Philippine embassy in Japan, said Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines are on the radar map of Japanese businessmen.

“We are the closest ASEAN economy to Japan and probably is the cheapest,” said Amb. Manuel Lopez.

He said Japanese companies are interested in setting up business process outsourcing operations in the Philippines due to tax perks for export-oriented businesses, Lopez said.

“We have major conglomerates looking already at investments in the infrastructure and transportation base in the country,” said Dita Angara-Mathay, commercial counselor of the Philippine Embassy in Japan.

“In investment seminars, it’s always overcapacity. There’s a lot of interest to look at the Philippines, which has a young population and a growing market,” Siriban said.

The Philippines could become Japan’s gateway to Southeast Asia, which boasts of a 600-million market. Japan is also taking a second look at the manufacturing sector in the Philippines.

For the financial service sector, one of the biggest credit card companies in Japan is firming up a partnership with China Banking Corp. of the Sy family.

A large potential investment area is Mindanao particularly given the peace deal.

“With the signing of the peace accord, Mindanao is one of the targets of Japanese businesses in mining and agriculture,” Lopez said.

Japanese companies are also looking at producing high-value commercial crops such as ornamental plants and cut flowers, Lopez said. The Philippines is currently the biggest pineapple and banana exporter in Japan.

Last week, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro as the first step in the creation of a new region that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

For other parts of the country, investment opportunities abound in terms of creative content and game development, Mathay said.

Specifically, a group of between 50-60 employees of Japanese gaming firms Sega, Bandai and Konami will visit Manila in May to partner with local counterparts through the Creative Content Game Networking Mission.

Mathay said Filipino creative content developers can aid in the visual arts, programming and language components of computer games, allowing Japanese firms to venture into Western markets.

Existing businesses are also planning to expand operations.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. earlier said it bought Ford’s shuttered plant in Laguna as it focuses its production in the province.

Mitsubishi is planning to expand its production by one to two more sedan or van models in the next five years, said commercial attaché Froilan Pamintuan.

Toyota, Isuzu and Honda are waiting for the release of the Philippine automotive industry roadmap prior to firming up expansion plans, Mathay added.

Mathay said the improvement of trade will be aided by improved air travel.

To date, Philippine Airlines (PAL) is the largest airline operating between the Philippines and Japan with 77 weekly frequencies between seven points – more than the combined flights of all other carriers in the market. Japan is the largest international operation of PAL.

The objective now for the airline is to improve the service with Sapporo, famous for its ice festival, being looked into.

Japan was the country’s third biggest source market for tourists in 2013 after South Korea and the United States.

A total of 433,705 Japanese visitors came to the country, comprising 9.28 percent of international visitor arrivals for the year.

On Sunday, PAL added its twice daily Manila-Haneda flights to its existing Tokyo-Narita, Fukuoka, Nagoya and Osaka routes. It marked the company’s return to Haneda Airport in Tokyo, which was PAL’s chief gateway in Japan for 29 years until 1978.

“With the return of international service to Haneda, PAL is now back at Tokyo’s premier airport,” said Ismael Augusto Gozon, senior vice-president for airline operations of PAL.