Japan pledges P434B in investments, biz deals in the works

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has capped off his official visit to the Philippines with a Y1-trillion (P434-billion) pledge of aid and investments.

The number could go even higher as business leaders from both countries are in talks for possible deals, especially in transportation and agriculture, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines (JCCIPI) has revealed.

"Japan will support to create business opportunities approximately Y1 trillion level for over the next five years, including ... official development assistance and private investments for the Philippines," Japanese Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura said in a press briefing on Thursday.

This funding will go into infrastructure, tapping Japan's world-renowned technology to develop transportation and power projects, Kawamura said.

The Japanese government is also supporting irrigation, road construction, power generation and education in Davao City.

Abe visited President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown after the ceremony in Malacañang -- making him one of the first heads of state to visit the southern capital in more than two decades after Mahathir Mohamad, then-Malaysian Prime Minister, in 1994.

Read: Duterte shows Abe his house, bedroom with 'kulambo'

Last but not least, Japan will provide equipment, capacity-building and training exercises to boost the Philippines' anti-terrorism and maritime security measures.

"So this represents how our two countries are close in terms of relations. This is an eloquent reflection of the existing confidence, trust to the Philippines," Kawamura said.

Meanwhile, JCCIPI said a group of 30 Japanese business leaders accompanied Abe in his official visit. They included representatives from Marubeni Corp.; Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group; Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co., Ltd.; Hitachi, Ltd.; and Kirin Company, Ltd.

They were met by members of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as leaders of blue-chip companies and representatives from Mindanao.

Speaking exclusively to CNN Philippines, JCCIPI President Yoshio Amano said Japanese firms are mainly looking at the manufacturing, electronics and information technology sectors here. They also see potential in the automotive and food business.

"They are not so much looking at new fields, but just expanding operations in fields where they already are," he explained.

Amano also hinted at companies' interest in railway projects the government is undertaking with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

He referred to the 80-kilometer Northrail project -- JICA is funding the construction of a railway from Tutuban to Malolos, and the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corp. for Transport and Urban Development has also offered to study the feasibility of an extension from Malolos to Clark.

Amano, who also heads the Manila branch of Mitsubishi Corp., said the Philippines is a key destination for Japanese investors because of the closeness of the two countries -- both in geography and history.

"We are neighbors," he said. "Our companies have already been here for 30-40 years, they already have local partnerships."

Amano said Japanese investors always felt welcome in the Philippines. "Many people like Japan. Thank you for that."

The chamber encouraged the government to continue its work battling corruption and red tape -- two of the biggest obstacles to Japanese investors.

"There are lots of opportunities in the Philippines, and there are no hesitations among Japanese companies," Amano said.

However, other emerging markets like Vietnam and Indonesia compete strongly with the Philippines, he explained. Their governments are cutting down regulations, offering incentives and creating a business-friendly environment.

"We hope there can be a present improvement of business policy," he said.