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DTI scores commitment from Thai firms to expand Philippine presence

BANGKOK — Thai companies have expressed their intent to expand their presence in the Philippines, a top official said on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

According to Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, among the sectors the companies are mostly involved in construction, agriculture, retail, and renewable energy.

“Most of the Thai companies we’ve met have already existing operations in the Philippines, so they told about their future plans—not just future, but ongoing expansion that they’re doing for their businesses,” he told GMA News Online in an interview here.

Pascual declined to elaborate on the expansion plans, as he said the firms are private companies and that “their moves are proprietary.”

During the trip to Bangkok, Philippine officials headed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. met with Thai firms such as the CP Group, which already has a presence in the Philippines, and urged them to take part in public-private partnership (PPP) projects.

“They have expressed interest. Alam mo may big players diyan sa atin. They’re thinking of expanding maski na sa power, sa aquaculture, they’re thinking of expanding,” Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president George Barcelon said in a separate interview here.

“They’re thinking of expanding like CP Group, malaki ‘yun eh, they’re there already eh, at tsaka the other one on the power,” he added, being privy to discussions made.

(You know there are big players in our country. They’re thinking of expanding even in power, aquaculture, they’re thinking of expanding. They’re thinking of expanding like CP Group, that is a big one, they’re there already, and the other one on the power.)

Also among the companies looking at expanding is the United Pulp and Paper Co. Inc. (UPPC), the Philippine-based paper and packaging arm of Thailand’s Siam Cement Group., whose officials were met by the Philippine delegation on Saturday.

Barcelon said Thai firms are also looking at possible investments on connectivity in the Philippines.

“We have Thailand group going there okay, and then I said that’s good, but we should have more collaboration between the two countries,” he said.

“Sa mining, mas marami tayong mineral so maybe this mineral can be processed into some more valuable raw material, so they’re open to that. Also sa agri, connectivity, and then the food security, they’re willing to help the Philippines,” he added.

(In mining, we have more minerals so maybe this mineral can be processed into some more valuable raw material, so they’re open to that. Also in agri, connectivity, and then the food security, they’re willing to help the Philippines.)

South Korea FTA

Pascual also said the Philippines is now working on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with South Korea which is targeted to be signed by the first quarter of 2023.

“We’re working out an FTA with Korea. We hope to conclude that by early next year,” he said.

The secretary had a bilateral meeting with his Thai counterpart Minister Ahn Duk-Geun on the sidelines of the APEC Summit, where the two agreed to boost economic ties between the two countries.

“The two ministers had a productive discussion on trade and investment issues, which is aimed to strengthen the bilateral relationship of the Philippines and South Korea,” the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a separate statement.

“Likewise, both agreed to facilitate cooperation centered on research and development, renewable energy, and green technology,” it added.

Pascual joined trade and foreign ministers from the Asia-Pacific region for the APEC Ministerial meeting, where he pushed for an open market.

“Respect and observance of the rules-based trading system is a prerequisite to a conducive open market and a crucial element in promoting trade and sustainable development,” he was quoted as saying in a separate statement released by the DTI. — BM, GMA Integrated News