Ramon T. Tulfo, manilatimes.net, April 16, 2019
Tulfo image from his article
MANY companies in China are falling all over one another in a mad scramble to invest in the Philippines, which they see as a potential source of food on the table for its 3.5 billion people, a market for its products and a manufacturing hub.
I know whereof I speak. Since I was appointed special envoy to China late last year, I’ve been talking with many prospective investors from the Mainland who want to:
– Lease vast farmlands to plant vegetables and tropical fruits for export to China.
— Lease thousands of hectares of fishpond, which have not been used or sequestered by the banks for nonpayment of mortgage.
— Build or operate fishports complete with ice plants so Chinese vessels could carry the seafood and other aquatic produce to the Mainland fresh.
— Buy river sand and gravel, and lahar sand to be used as construction materials. Most of our rivers are silted with sand and gravel which cause flooding during the rainy season.
— Set up steel plants in the country or revive the existing ones, which have not been operating for years.
— Set up factories in our economic zones because many factories in China have closed down due to the trade war with the US.
— Bring in big-spending Mainland tourists.
One of my mandates as special envoy is to draw Chinese investments into the Philippines.
I have rented an office space at Glorietta 4 at the Ayala Center in Makati City’s commercial district to receive potential investors and discuss their plans to set up business in the country.
I’ve had my hands full meeting with prospective Chinese investors or their representatives and having them meet with officials of the agriculture, finance, trade and industry, public works, environment, natural resources and tourism departments.
The world of diplomacy is entirely different from the world of journalism.
Diplomacy is an exciting job, and I always look forward each day to meeting new prospects.
As special envoy to China for public diplomacy, I can’t tell you how much I’ve done to help solve our problem with our big neighbor over the land outcroppings in the South China Sea.
Let’s just say that I have discussed with some Chinese officials the problem in the South China Sea — West Philippine Sea to us — over many rounds of moutai, their national drink.
I find these people very amiable, courteous and straight talkers.
I’m also helping China’s police track down some fugitives from their country by connecting them with officials in the Department of Justice, Philippine National Police, and National Bureau of Investigation.
In one drinking session with Chinese police officials, they made me an honorary member of China’s national police just for that night (ha!ha!).
* * *
The Chinese investors who have become close to my heart — no offense meant to the others — are officials of Travelzen Worldwide Co. Ltd.
Travelzen promises to bring into the country millions of rich, big-spending Chinese tourists.
Right now, visitors from the Mainland end up working in online gaming tables and construction sites. Some come to play in our casinos.
Travelzen, one of the biggest tour and travel agencies in China, volunteers to set up tourist and investment information centers in key cities in the Mainland — free of charge.
The centers aim to promote travel to the Philippines and assist Chinese tourists, most of whom don’t speak English, with their application for travel visas to the country.
I’ve learned that our embassy in Beijing and consulates in other parts of China are undermanned and can’t cope with the processing of visa applications to the Philippines.
This company will be helping our embassy and consulates in facilitating the issuance of tourist visas to the Philippines.
Travelzen proposes to screen applicants for tourist visas with the help of its country’s ministry of state security and ministry of public security even before the applications are submitted to the Philippine embassy and consular offices in China.
Thomas Kwok and Donny Yeung, Travelzen officials, believe that after coming to the Philippines, more Chinese businessmen will be encouraged to invest in the country.
Secretaries Berna Puyat of tourism and Ramon Lopez of trade and industry were very happy to receive Kwok and Yeung in their offices.
From their end, Puyat and Lopez wanted the tourist and investment centers set up immediately to start the ball rolling.
However, the two departments are awaiting the approval of Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin for the creation of the first center to be located in Shanghai where Travelzen has its main office.
Travelzen invites tourism, trade and foreign affairs personnel to oversee the operation of the centers.
If its proposal is approved, Travelzen will also open Philippine information centers in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau.
The travel agency, which is partly owned by the Chinese government, says that with the creation of the centers an estimated 7 million Mainland tourists will eventually come to the Philippines every year.
If each of these rich, big-spending Mainland tourists spends a minimum of $3,000, the country will earn $21 billion a year.
You know what that means? That’s a staggering P1.071 trillion a year coming into the Philippines from Chinese tourists alone!
And that’s only a minimum.
Ramon T. Tulfo, manilatimes.net, April 16, 2019