Danish ambassador to the Philippines Franz Michael Skjold Mellbin explains his perspective on Palawan's business and investment sector during the Sulong Palawan business forum at the VJR Hall of the provincial capitol last November 16. | PN photo

The province of Palawan has a promising future for economic growth and can achieve a 10 percent annual increase in gross domestic product, Danish ambassador to the Philippines Franz Michael Skjold Mellbin said.

But to be able to achieve this, he said, the government must be able to get the policies and frameworks right and make decisions that will encourage reforms and initiate structural changes in parts of the economy.

Speaking at the Sulong Palawan business forum organized by the Palawan Business Club, Inc., last Wednesday, Mellbin told participants that he sees big potential in the province and encouraged them to translate this into opportunity and action.

“The potential is there, and everybody knows it. People are very optimistic about future economic growth, and if you get your policies and frameworks right, you can take off even more. If you do that, great things can happen in this country, and your biggest resource is your young population,” Mellbin said.

According to him, Danish investors have indicated intentions to come and “are ready to move here big time” because they see a potential in the problem in the energy sector, which is one of the setbacks in the economic growth of the province.

He said one company from a European country is ready to come in with a couple billion dollars to invest in renewable energy in the country.

“Up there [in Denmark], there’s one company that’s ready to put $2 billion into renewable energy in the Philippines. This is one company from a tiny country up in Europe, already sending people here to put $2 billion into energy. And the reason they did that, the ticker was that you made this new legislation, which allowed foreign investors full ownership in the renewable sector,” he explained.

The ambassador, however, emphasized the need for reforms to further get investors’ attention and not make them hesitate.

The possibilities exist, but factors such as bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption could cause them concern.

“Well, they say two things to me – they say the government or that some of them are [into] corruption, and the other thing they say is red tape. And they worry about both. They don’t worry about the potential, they see the potential and they’re thinking, wow, this is great. Let’s move to the Philippines and let’s do great stuff, but they worry about these two things,” he said.

Mellbin also stated that he was impressed by the way the government and business worked together, which he viewed as an opportunity to make structural changes.

He went on to say that the adjustment, despite the fact that it would be challenging, would have a significant influence on the economy.

“Very small structural change, but immediately you get interested, and they are not the only ones interested; there are competitors; there are other people out there who are interested to come in. So, hitting the $20 billion mark, yes, absolutely. This can happen and much more if you do the right structure change,” he said.

“This is something that you should work together on, because what you need is a structural change in a lot of areas, including the energy sector or the agriculture sector. It’s the structural change that will unleash the potential, create opportunities and make actions, make real business and growth happen,” he added.

In addition to this, he said that it is not necessary to come up with new concepts or launch brand new initiatives in order to accomplish the aforementioned goals.

All responsible individuals should do, he explained, is to go out and observe how others are making miracles for their countries, like Vietnam that just emerged from war yet was able to attract investments.

“You can sort of ‘steal’ what other countries in the region did. You can go out in the world and see what Vietnam did. They made a miracle out of their country, coming out of the war. How did Singapore or Japan do? It’s not magic, a lot of like good ideas out there that you can just copy – just steal from the Vietnamese, they’ve done a lot of smart things over there,” he said, noting that it would be an added attraction for businesses and investors to come.

“So, what you need is social consensus on these changes. And I’m really happy to see this kind of engagement from the business community together with the government, trying to create solutions together because that is the kind of social consensus that will help build the foundations for real change, and will lead to real growth and make it much easier to tackle things like governance and red tape issues,” he said.

He also said he is impressed with the potential of Palawan, which he said can push the province ahead of the rest of the country.

“This is in your hands, the governor working together with the mayors, you can do a lot to make it much more attractive for business people to come here, for investors to feel safe about investing in this part of the country. Creating that kind of atmosphere will power one as a great place to do business. You clear your stuff there, and you can start doing business,” he said

“Things can happen when you make the right decisions. You make it easy for business to do their thing, investors will come and good things will happen,” he added.