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Economy

Philippines to accelerate goods trade

MANILA -- The Philippines will implement a "single window" system to simplify and speed up processing of exports and imports by year end, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said Friday.

Cesar Purisima, secretary of finance of the Philippines

     Speaking at a forum organized by Nikkei Asian Review, Purisima also spoke of a proposal, which he called "Cebu Action Plan," for regional financial integration and transparency, to be presented at the APEC financial ministers meeting in September at the central Philippine island of Cebu.

     Purisima said the roadmap should be a stepping stone toward a region that is more financially integrated, transparent and resilient. The roadmap, he said, will have four pillars: promoting financial integration, advocating financial transparency, enhancing financial resiliency, as well as infrastructure and development financing. An early goal will be to ease supply chain financing, he said.

     Philippine trade has long been dogged by delays and even corruption, with a World Bank study finding that the average export shipment took 10 days to clear customs in 2009. By contrast, Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla told fellow APEC members this week that planned reforms this year would cut clearance times even for imports to an average 4 hours.

     Purisima noted that 14 of 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation have already implemented such a system. Under the APEC initiative, launched in 2007, all members aim to make it possible for companies to address all of their individual paperwork requirements for each shipment in one filing by 2020.

     Also at the forum, Alfredo Yao, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that Southeast Asia is primed for growth despite economic woes in larger and more advanced economies.

Alfredo Yao, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry   © Photo by Keiichiro Asahara

     "Just as the growth stories in other countries have become less rosy, that of ASEAN seems to be on the rise," said Yao, who controls beverage company Zest-O and companies in banking, aviation and other sectors. "Many Asean countries are seeing healthy, if not robust growth rates, based on sound fundamentals and with decent mid-term prospects."

     "The advent of the AEC (Asean Economic Community) can position the 10 ASEAN countries as attractive alternative locations for foreign direct investment," he added.

     But ASEAN members should not be complacent given the "red warnings" of slowing growth in China, slumping Russian economy, and financial troubles in the eurozone.

     "In this scenario, developing countries face significant policy challenges in an environment of weak global growth and considerable uncertainty," he said. It is thus important, he said, that developing countries rebuild fiscal buffers, that structural reforms be continued implemented and that central banks balance monetary policy to support growth while stabilizing inflation and their currencies.

Additional reporting by Zach Coleman, deputy editor, in Manila.

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