28 March 2014

JPEPA talks focus on use of ports

The further utilization of the Subic and Batangas ports emerged anew as one of the key points pressed by Japanese investors in the Philippines.

The Philippines and Japan yesterday convened the 8th meeting of the Sub-Committee on Improvement of Business Environment convened under the Japan-Philippines economic partnership agreement (JPEPA). the embassy of Japan said in a statement.

The embassy said that during the meeting, both sides noted the progress made on issues such as refund of value-added tax, the common carriers tax and gross Philippine billings (CCT/GPB) among other issues.

So far, the budget department has allocated funds to refund the VAT paid by Japanese investors. A law has been recently passed scrapping the foreign carriers’ tax.

Also discussed were topics on consistency of tax-related issues, sustainability of affordable and reliable supply of electricity, further utilization of Batangas and Subic ports, additional surcharges introduced by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, development of the Philippines as Human Resource Development (HRD) hub, and other issues and initiatives.

Batangas and Subic ports, both funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation have remained under-utilized.

The meeting was led by Ambassador of Japan Toshinao Urabe, and Undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr. co-chaired the meeting.

Representatives from various Philippine government agencies, Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) attended the meeting. The private sector was represented by Mr. Takashi Ishigami, President, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, Inc. for the Japanese side.

Among the JPEPA framework, the Sub-Committee on Improvement of Business Environment is of significant importance because it provides a forum for dialogue between public and private sectors of both countries to discuss specific issues in order to ensure transparent, predictable and consistent business environment. This regular semi-annual dialogue with parties concerned is indispensable for further improvement of business environment which is constantly evolving.

The next meeting of the Sub-Committee is scheduled in September 2014.

JPEPA, which entered into force in December 2008, is an important framework for enhancing economic ties between the two countries.

Both sides noted that recent trade and investment figures had been very encouraging. The existence of JPEPA has successfully promoted Japanese investment to the Philippines.

The abundant, diligent, and English-speaking workforce in the Philippines are finding jobs in and out of the country. Such win-win relationship is expected to be further enhanced by the adoption of Integrated Services Digital Broadcast-Terrestrial (ISDB-T) by the Philippines late last year, two and a half fold increase of bilateral air services including direct links to Haneda Airport, Japan’s on-going cooperation in Yolanda relief and rehabilitation projects, as well as other ODA projects. (Reuters)