Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez has raised the likelihood of allowing lower tariffs on rice from India as a way of minimizing tariff barriers for the Philippines very vital commodity. 

Lopez mentioned this during the Philippines Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI) and the India Business Forum (IBF) virtual webinar.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez. (ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO FILE PHOTO)

According to Lopez, despite the pandemic, the Philippines and India were able to hold a virtual meeting of the 13th Philippines-India Joint Working Group on Trade and Investments (JWGTI) last year.

During the meeting, both nations agreed to consider a possible Preferential Trade Agreement as a means to improve the current market access conditions for products of interest. More importantly, he said, both sides discussed potential collaboration and cooperation initiatives on a wide range of areas. 

In that meeting, Lopez said both parties discussed possible preferential tariff for products of interest both parties, including a good likelihood for tariff adjustments on rice from India.

“We’ve pushed for at the committee on tariff related matters with respect for tariff adjustment for rice from India and other countries as our way to minimize tariff barrier for very vial commodity in our country and India,” he said.

To further strengthen our country’s infrastructure, Lopez said that the Board of Investments presented during the JWGTI discussions six Public-Private Partnership (PPP) rail projects under our massive “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

The Philippines also conveyed its interest to participate in India’s port modernization and new port development projects under the Sagarmala and the Bharatmala Projects. 

Lopez also presented the passage of the game-changing  Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) Bill in Congress that could be taken advantage of by Indian investors. Even if India is not part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he said they can participate in the mega trade deal by investing in the Philippines.

“Philippines as the hub of your manufacturing activities, your products can target the RCEP-partner countries. Once the agreement becomes effective, RCEP is expected to boost intra-regional investment and trade with ASEAN expected to play a vital role in this agreement,” he said. 

Lopez recognized Indian firms’ major investments in the country including GRM Group that partnered with Megawide Philippines to expand and modernize our Mactan – Cebu International Airport. Other investments include PetValue Philippines Corp., Greenergy Solutions, Prasad Seeds Philippines, and Greentech Solar Energy, which are in the agro-processing and renewable energy sectors.

Aside from infrastructure, there are other investment opportunities in the Philippines for investors to take part in. These include: agro-processing, automotive manufacturing, copper wire manufacturing, hospitals and healthcare services, pharmaceuticals, education services, tourism and hotel, and IT-BPM, as well as healthcare information and management. 

He cited big Indian BPOs operating in the Philippines, like Hinduja Global, Infosys, Teleperformance Global, and Concentrix, among others. “We also recognize the thousands of Indian businesses in manufacturing and retail based in the country,” he added. 

India has always been one of Philippines strongest trade and investment partners. In 2020, India was the Philippines’ 14th top trading partner, 13th top export market, and 13th foremost import supplier. India was also Philippines’ 15th top investment partner for 2019, with the same ranking as of January to September 2020.

Source: Manila Bulletin (