Following the Philippine Board of Investments (BOI) mission to Singapore in August, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), supported by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore and the Philippine Trade & Investment Centre (PTIC) in Singapore, recently led a business delegation to Cebu, the Philippines’s second largest city and second most economically developed city after Manila.

Cebu is the gateway to Central and Southern Philippines and has good air and sea connectivity. It offers a relatively lower-cost business environment and access to a skilled workforce. Its focus sectors are BPO, manufacturing, consumer goods and tourism. Cebu also leads in export items such as furniture and carrageenan (a food additive), with the expanding services sector expected to maintain its economic dominance. For tourism, it is an appealing destination, as reflected in the increasing number of Korean and Japanese visitors who have acquired leisure residential units for retirement or vacation place.

“From the 2014-2015 SBF National Business Survey of our member companies, the Philippines was ranked fifth most popular for overseas business presence in Southeast Asia, and sixth most popular among the overseas markets our members would like to venture into Southeast Asia. We expect our Singapore companies on this business mission to benefit by tapping new business opportunities in Cebu,” said Mr. Alan Tan, SBF Director for ASEAN and South Asia.

The Singapore companies explored new business and networking opportunities with the BOI, Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Cebu City government, Department of Labor and Employment, Commission on Higher Education, Philippine Chamber of Commerce-Central Visayas, Cebu Chamber, and with some representatives from the private sector such as SM group, fruit processor Profoods, and real estate firm CBRE. The group also attended a briefing on legal aspects of doing business in the Philippines and on ExIm Bank support to investors organized by Mr Jay Yuvallos from the ASEAN Business Advisory Council.

The Lion City is one of the Philippines’ most vital economic partners, ranking over the years as its top foreign investor in ASEAN. Several Singapore companies have established operations in the Philippines, penetrating various industries such as manufacturing, infrastructure, telecommunications, and retail. Through SBF, IE Singapore and the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry’s PTIC-Singapore, strong Philippines-Singapore bilateral engagement between and among strategic government and private partners continue.

A bigger business mission to Cebu is being planned for the third quarter of 2016.

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The mission delegation with Cebu Vice Governor Agnes A. Magpale (seated, 2nd from right)