By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno (File photo)

MANILA – Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Monday expressed optimism that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s participation in the World Economic Forum (WEF) will open doors for “more intensive” partnerships that will help revitalize the Philippine economy.

Diokno touted that the Marcos administration has created a “more competitive and enabling environment” in the Philippines.

“May the next few days bring forth more intensive collaboration and cooperation towards genuine economic transformation,” Diokno said during the luncheon hosted for Marcos and Philippine chief executive officers in Davos, Switzerland.

The Philippine government is expecting a “strong” full-year gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 2022, most likely much faster than its growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent.

Citing the expected slowdown of the global economy, Diokno added that the Philippine economy is forecast to grow by around 6.5 percent in 2023.

“And that’s still one of the highest if not the highest growth projection in the Asia-Pacific Region,” Diokno said, noting that the GDP growth for 2022 will be formally announced late this month.

The Philippines’ “bustling manufacturing sector, record-low unemployment, and stable and resilient banking system” can alleviate buffers against external headwinds, Diokno said, adding that these indicate that the country has a “resilient economy.”

Diokno said opening economic sectors to foreign equity, improving the ease of doing business and allowing the development of modern transformative industries will further boost the Philippine economy.

He also noted that the public-private partnership (PPP) will expand the “Build, Better, More” infrastructure agenda of the Marcos administration and yield more investments on top of the government’s goal to spend at least 5 to 6 percent of GDP on infrastructure.

Such initiatives, Diokno said, serve as “the backbone for the rapid and sustained growth for the Philippines.”

Diokno, however, acknowledged that the country is facing several challenges, hence, the need for the Philippine government to introduce its proposed sovereign wealth fund at the WEF.

He said the proposed sovereign wealth fund, or the so-called Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), will support the goals set by the Marcos administration in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028.

“The fund, which will be established in keeping with the highest standards of accountability and sound fiscal management, aims to diversify the country’s financial portfolio,” Diokno said.

Support from Filipino business tycoons

Marcos is currently in Davos, along with the official Philippine delegation, to highlight the Philippines’ economic gains and bring home more investment pledges.

Seven of the Philippines’ biggest business leaders joined the Philippine delegation in Davos to show support for Marcos’ inaugural participation in WEF.

Business tycoons who flew to Switzerland were Sabin Aboitiz (Aboitiz), Kevin Andrew Tan (Alliance Global), Jaime Zobel de Ayala (Ayala Group), Lance Gokongwei (JG Summit Holdings), Ramon Ang (San Miguel Corp.), Teresita Sy-Coson (SM Investments), and Enrique Razon (International Container Terminal), Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said.

“Seven of the country’s biggest businessmen are in Davos to support President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s inaugural participation in the 2023 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum,” Garafil said in a statement.

Marcos, in an interview with the media en route to Switzerland, said he was looking forward to “expanding and expounding” the significant strides achieved by his administration in the question-and-answer event at the WEF.

Aside from the question-and-answer with the audience, Marcos also hoped to have “pull-aside” or “pull-away” meetings on the sidelines of the WEF annual meeting.

The WEF is hosting a Country Strategy Dialogue for the Philippines to give the country an opportunity to promote it as a “leader,” “driver of growth,” and “gateway to the Asia-Pacific region–one that is open for business,” Marcos said in his pre-departure speech on Sunday.

“I will draw attention to our efforts at building resilient infrastructure that bolsters our efforts to reinforce robust and resilient supply chains, ensure food security including its critical interlinkages with health and nutrition, while furthering climate-friendly, clean and green energy to power the Philippine economy,” he said.

This year’s annual WEF is the first in-person meeting since 2020.

Established in 1971, the WEF serves as an international organization for public-private cooperation and convenes leaders from government, business and civil society to address the state of the world and discuss priorities for the year ahead. (PNA)