The Philippines is trying to sell Saudi businessmen on investing in the development of its infrastructure, especially in projects related to tourism.
Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin H. Tago presented his case in a meeting at the Asharqia Chamber yesterday. He invited Saudi businessmen to consider investments in hotels, motels, resorts and recreational facilities in the Philippines. Tago was leading a trade delegation from the Philippines, which presented an array of foodstuffs for import such as sweets, snacks, noodles, biscuits, agricultural products and a range of tropical fruits including pineapples and bananas.
Asharqia Chamber board member Abdullah A. Almajdouie and Secretary-General Abdul Rahman A. Al-Wabel welcomed the Philippine delegation.
Highlighting the potential in his country’s tourism sector, Tago said the Philippines was an archipelago composed of 7,107 islands offering a wide selection of beaches. Some Philippine beaches, such as Boracy with its famous white sand, have received international recognition and awards.
The Philippine diplomat focused on Palawan Underground River which is one of the renowned tourist attractions in the Philippines. It was listed in the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012. With a length of 8.2 km, the Palawan Underground River is the longest navigable underground river in the world. It is also one of the two UNESCO Heritage sites in the Philippines.
“Although we have a lot of world-class tourist attractions, the number of tourists from Saudi Arabia has not reached satisfactory levels,” Tago said, adding that nearly 30,000 Saudi tourists traveled to the Philippines in 2012. The country attracted more than 4.2 million visitors last year.
The ambassador outlined his government’s public-private partnership program under which a number of projects have been planned to be developed in cooperation with foreign and local investors. He urged Saudi investors to participate in these projects. In January 2013, four major infrastructure projects under the PPP program have already been approved. The projects concerns roads and railways, communications and a gas pipeline.
Tago delineated Saudi Arabia’s contribution to infrastructure development in the Philippines. The Kingdom has already provided $ 20 million as soft loans for the development of various road projects in the Mindanao region. This was part of Saudi Arabia’s commitment of $ 100 million to Philippine development projects.
In 2011, the Kingdom imported SR 500 million worth of Philippine bananas. This represented more than half of Saudi imports from the Philippines. Saudi Arabia also imported SR 40 million worth of pineapples in 2011.
Almajdouie hoped that Saudi Arabia’s current trade and cultural relationships with the Philippines will further be strengthened as more than half-a-million Filipinos live and work in the Kingdom and their loyalty and experience have won the hearts of Saudi employers.
“There are also frequent reciprocal visits of high-ranking government officials and trade missions, which have resulted in a noticeable increase in trade exchanges between the two countries in recent years,” he said.
According to Saudi government statistics, two-way trade rose to SR 13.9 billion in 2011 as opposed to SR 10.2 billion in the previous year. In 2011, Saudi imports from the Philippines amounted to around SR 800 million while Saudi exports to the Philippines were valued at SR 13.1 billion.
DAMMAM: SIRAJ WAHAB (ARABNEWS)