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Philippines, India set to enhance economic ties in digital tech, infrastructure

To sustain its momentum in its digital transformation, the Philippines is set to partner with another Asian economy to drive growth in its technology and banking sectors. Department of Finance (DoF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III announced in a statement that he has been in talks with Indian Ambassador to the Philippines, Shambhu Kumaran, to strengthen the two countries’ economic ties in improving digital technology and developing infrastructure. 

Speaking through a virtual courtesy call, the two officials were one in saying that both countries are “poised to bounce back” from the economic impact of the pandemic. They also agreed that the benefits of strengthening the two nations’ economic cooperation are many. 

The ambassador expressed India’s interest to solidify its existing cooperation with the Philippines, particularly in the field of banking and finance. This is in line with goals earlier set by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of attaining financial inclusivity for Filipinos. To do this, he explained that India can assist the Philippines in setting up and improving its national broadband network. India is also intent on providing tech assistance to the Philippines once the latter rolls out its national ID system. 

The Finance Secretary showed interest in the planned cooperation with India and encouraged Indian businesses to invest under a cyber defence framework designed to streamline operations of state-run banks and other subsidiaries in the Philippines. 

The Secretary also showed appreciation for India’s offer of assistance in accelerating the Philippines’ digital transformation. He added that with these services, the Philippine government will be better equipped in fostering financial inclusion, in upgrading delivery of frontline public service and in putting a stop to corruption. 

The tech assistance services offered by the Indian government will be in line with the Philippines’ initiative to boost its broadband services. As previously reported by OpenGov Asia, a big chunk of the Philippines’ budget for 2021 has been allotted for the development of the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) National Broadband Programme (NBP). 

Of the PHP 4.5 trillion (US$ 93.7 billion) national budget this year, the funding for the NBP was recorded to be at PHP 1.9 billion (US$ 39.5 million). This was a significant increase from the initial PHP 903.19 million (US$ 18.8 million) budget allocation for the NBP. 

Investments in infrastructure 

The Ambassador likewise said that more Indian firms are looking at investing in the Philippines and taking part in the government’s “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) programme. However, he was quick to add that these potential investors still need more information regarding possible business ventures that are available to them under this infrastructure modernisation plan. 

To address this issue, the Finance Secretary and the Ambassador agreed to launch a webinar or a virtual workshop. Through this platform, the Philippine government will be able to lay down investment opportunities available to Indian companies. 

To point out some of the key opportunities for investment in the Philippines, the DoF said that an Indian firm is already in partnership with the government under the Build, Build, Build Programme for the Mactan Cebu International Airport and in the Clark International Airport (CIA) projects. 

The BBB programme aims to address the infrastructure backlog in the Philippines by improving public infrastructure spending from 2.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP) to 7.3%. The government is estimating costs in implementing this framework to be at around PHP 8 trillion to PHP 9 trillion (US$ 166 billion to US$ 187.4 billion) from 2016 to 2022. Projects under this programme include Phase 1 of the CIA expansion and the New Clark City Food Processing Terminal and International Food Market 

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