Article by Maria Paula Tolentino
with context & photos provided by Stephen Araneta

Makati – 3 October 2019 – The Philippines-Australia Business Council held its General Meeting together with a discussion on how the ASEAN-Australian-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTAA) can help boost doing business within the Pacific island countries.

The meeting covered four major parts: (1) the Philippines Innovations Act and Philippines Start-Up Act, (2) a discussion on the Triangular Business Cooperation, (3) possible joint Pacific posts business and tourism visit to the Philippines either on year 2020 or 2021, and lastly (4) a discussion on APEC 2021 by New Zealand and how to leverage such opportunities.

AANZFTAA and an overview of doing business within the Pacific island countries was covered by the Bureau of International Trade Relations, DTI Officer, Myrene Bedano while the Philippines Innovations Act and Philippines Start-Up Act was discussed by Director of the Bureau of Trade and Industrial Policy Research Ms. Maria Lourdes Yaptinchay. While succeeding areas of the meeting were provided commentary by Philippine Ambassadors: Excellencies Jesus S. Domingo of New Zealand, Hellen de la Vega of Australia and Bienvenido Tejano of Papua New Guinea.

The Philippines Innovations Act and Philippines Start-Up Act

AANZFTA is a manifestation of ASEANʼs push for an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The establishment of the AEC is the goal of the ASEAN, guided by the AEC blueprint 2015/2025. Regional economic integration is both internal (within the ASEAN) and external (with other countries). Other ASEAN FTAʼs include: ASEAN-China-FTA, ASEAN-Korea-FTA, ASEAN-Japan-CEP, AANZFTA ASEAN-India-FTA and ASEAN-HK-FTA.

In relation to free trade agreements, Yaptinchay says that the Philippines Innovations Act (PIA) under Republic Act No. 11293 helps leverage opportunities for Philippine start ups such as a) the creation of Philippines startup Ecozones, b) the establishment of a Startup Investment Development Plan (SIDP) and a Startup Grant Fund (SGF) which could also lead to the creation of a c) Startup Venture Fund. Other opportunities seen are d) the creation of the National Innovation Council (NIC), that cements the Innovations Startup Act (ISA) under Republic Act No. 11337, which could lead to the e) establishment of an Innovation Fund, f) the creation of the National Innovation Agenda and Strategy Document that mandates the enforcement of Intellectual Property Legislations in the country, and lastly, the g) the establishment of Startup Visas, which comes three-fold: Startup owner visas for prospective or current foreign owners of  a startup business, Startup foreign employee visa  for foreign employees and Startup investor visa, for prospective or current foreign investors.

Discussion on Triangular Business Cooperation

Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Jesus S. Domingo encouraged more business to business (B2B) trade relations over a government to government (G2G) setup. Under his office, he can help facilitate the matching of local chambers with New Zealand counterparts. He sees more local government unit(s) matching with NZ-based LGUs. He adds that since New Zealand will be hosting APEC in 2021, he finds this an opportune time to promote trade with the Philippines.

Possible joint Pacific posts business and tourism visit to the Philippines

According to Philippine Ambassador to Australia Hellen De La Vega together with her fellow diplomats, the countries of Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea are organizing a trade and tourism mission to the Philippines in the year 2020. Philippine Ambassador to Papua New Guinea Bienvenido Tejano says that there are 49,000 Filipinos residing in PNG alone, with thriving (mining gold, oil, gas) and growing industries (agriculture and fisheries) that are steadily making PNG the richest in the Pacific. Ambassador Tejano affirms that they are bullish about the investment prospects in Papua New Guinea.

Represented by these diplomats, the Filipino communities residing in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are keen to do business in 2020, thus are seeking the support of the PABC and other local chambers.

Speaking at PABC’s meeting, Philippine Ambassador to Australia Hellen de la Vega encourages PABC and other local chambers to support the 2020 Trade Mission to be spearheaded by the Diplomatic offices of Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.