Ahead of the 5th Association of South East Asian Nations Finance
Ministers Investor Seminar in Dubai, Margarito B. Teves, Finance
Secretary of the Philippines, spoke to Gulf News about the potential for joint investment initiatives between the UAE and the Philippines.

Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed between the UAE and the
Philippines to find ways the Philippines can help the UAE ensure food
security. What has been the progress on this MoU?

Margarito B. Teves:
Our agriculture officials have already called on industry partners to
support a proposal to craft a new law creating a national agency that
will exclusively focus on the halal industry in the Philippines. This
is in line with the Philippines’ initiative to intensify efforts to
become a major player in the $500 billion (Dh1.84 trillion) global
halal market, so the UAE can count on the Philippines as a reliable
supplier of food products permissible under Sharia.

The Philippine
government has incorporated UAE comments and submitted the revised
draft MoU to the UAE for their consideration. Should the UAE consider
this version in order, we are hopeful that the MoU will be signed in

How much do
Gulf remittances contribute to the Philippines annually and how does
the government intend to tap into this growing section of population as
a potential source of investment capital?

The Gulf is one of the
major sources of remittances for the Philippines, accounting for 60 per
cent of expatriate workers and sending an average of $1.6 billion of
remittances in the past five years, with a peak of $2.2 billion of
remittances in 2007. Remittances from the Gulf account for roughly 15
per cent of total remittances.

The government,
spearheaded by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has implemented policies
and initiatives that would improve the environment for OFW [Overseas
Filipino Workers] remittance flows. The recent tie-up between a local
telecommunications service provider and a global remittance company
with extensive links with Philippine commercial banks is anticipated to
further facilitate the electronic transfer of remittances. This
partnership will service Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates.

Following the
Filipino government’s decision to open up the real estate sector to
non-resident investors, how much interest have you seen from both
expatriates and investors in the Gulf?

Non-residents are
allowed to invest in the following areas in real estate: On ownership
of private lands, up to 60 per cent foreign equity in a domestic
corporation (Sec. 4 of RA 9182 or the Foreign Investment Act of 1991);
on ownership of condominium units, up to 40 per cent foreign equity
where the common areas in the condominium project are co-owned by the
owners of the separate units or owned by a corporation (Sec. 5 of RA
4726 or the Condominium Act).