A paradigm shift, faster business processes, and open doors. These are just a few things the Philippines needs to expand and grow, according to Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ICCP) President Itamar Gero, in a recent interview with Bloomberg Philippines.
Bloomberg sat down with Gero to talk about the great potential Israeli investors see in the country. “This is exactly the right time to hit the iron while it’s hot,” he said. “And if you bring the right players…they are not necessarily the neighbors, they are not necessarily the cheaper solutions, but these are solutions that are proven. These are solutions that are being invested in by the biggest companies in the world.”
He shared that the largest companies in the world have R&D centers in Israel and their solutions and insights contribute to the progress of other countries. With what Israel can bring to the table, it will help the Philippines grow and thrive in many key industries.
Bright Future for Philippines-Israel Relations
The partnership between the Philippines and Israel is in full speed and the country is poised for “hypergrowth,” a term Gero coined to describe the country’s position in the larger scheme of things. He said the business collaboration between the two is very active.
“We already have companies here doing greenhouse projects, irrigation projects, medical care, and ICT. If this continues on the current trajectory, there is a bright future for the relations between the two countries.”
When asked which industries Israel is looking to invest in the country, Gero cited tourism and agriculture. “The easy, the low-hanging fruit is the tourism industry.” He said that Filipinos have been seeing Israel as a place of pilgrimage for years, but his country is also a destination for foodies, vacationers, and investors looking to establish or fund startups.
He noted that the Philippines can increase its capacity and potential to become one of the biggest exporters in the region, especially in agriculture, by taking knowledge, advanced machinery, and advanced solutions from Israel. Israel has also been successful in infrastructure projects with China and Africa, and is willing to help the current government with infrastructure development.
“It means that we’ll have to set up demo farms and to bring Israeli technology, just to prove, first of all, to the farmers because you need a shift in paradigm. You need them to understand that they can grow more with less, and they can automate a lot of things, and they can increase their productivity.”
Unfortunately, bureaucracy and red tape are a stumbling block. Israel is straightforward in doing business and Israeli businessmen hope that by reducing bureaucracy, it could explore business possibilities more quickly. “We move fast. If there is a potential, we just do it. And I think if people adopted that kind of attitude here, we could make great things,” Gero explained.
He mentioned that neighboring countries like Vietnam, China and Taiwan are making a headway with Israel because of the improvements they made to hasten their processes. They are more than doubling their volumes between the countries. “If the Philippines can follow the same channel, as part of every administration’s plan; if we get to see it in action, I think there would be space for huge success.”
Keeping Doors Open
Regarding the current administration’s thrust to re-balance trade in Asia, the ICCP president has this to say, “Turning to your neighbor, as long as you’re in good diplomatic relations with them, makes sense. It doesn’t mean you have to turn your back on other friends. You can have friends all over the world, we’re a small world.”
He also said that the solutions one country can provide, the other might not be able to. “So it’s keeping your mind open, keeping the doors open for everybody. Might be the United States, might be Israel, might be China, Russia – it doesn’t matter, as long as we’re advancing in the right direction.”