Cathy Yang, ABS-CBN News
MANILA – Australia and the Philippines have a “very sound” relationship but “more can be done” to boost trade and economic ties, the newly-appointed Australian envoy said Wednesday.
Security, defense and intelligence elements are strong resulting in a “very warm” relationship but there is room to boost trade and economic benefits, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson told Cathy Yang in an exclusive interview for ANC’s The Boss.
Currently, there are 300 Australian firms in the Philippines with interests in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), mining, gas, infrastructure and finance, Robinson said in his first one-on-one interview since his arrival last Jan. 5.
“It’s an area that I really want to bolster and so when I saw the President [Rodrigo Duterte] I said to him, our relationship indeed is broad and deep but there’s more to be done and this is where I think we need to go particularly in terms of trade relationship,” Robinson said, recalling his recent meeting with Duterte.
The ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) also promotes enormous opportunity for investors in both countries, he said.
The “extraordinary” Philippine economy which grew 6.2 percent in 2018, as well as the government’s infrastructure program also make the country more attractive to Australian investors, he said.
“That’s extraordinary. Why would you not want to be a part of that development and growth. I think the prospect is remarkably good if we had 6 percent GDP growth in Australia we’d be partying non-stop because it’s just such wonderful statistics,” Robinson said.
“With the infrastructure growth in the Philippines and the encouragement that the president is giving to all of that I think there’s really good potential for Australians to come in here at virtually every level,” he said.
Australia also allocated about A$85 million for development assistance to the country this year with 50 percent focused on Mindanao specifically for education, infrastructure, governance and planning budget, Robinson said.