On 14 April 2021 the Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Finnish Ambassador to Manila Juha Pyykkö met to discuss ways on how the Philippines and Finland can expand their economic cooperation, as well as work closely on climate crisis adaptation strategies.
According to an official statement from Department of Finance (DOF), during the virtual meeting held via Zoom, Ambassador Pyykkö said Finland sees numerous opportunities in the Philippines in participating in its economic development, and in cooperating on climate change mitigation measures, digitalization, smart city development, education and web-based healthcare services.
Ambassador Pyykkö said he wants to rekindle the interest of Finnish investors in the Philippines, especially after Finland reopened its embassy in Manila in September last year, primarily to facilitate business ties involving the two countries and strengthen Finland’s consular and immigration services in Manila.
He cited the Philippines’ stable economic fundamentals and the positive mid-term outlook for the country’s economy, along with the reforms undertaken by the government on various areas such as corporate taxation and infrastructure development, as among the reasons why he wants Finnish investors to “have another look at the Philippines.”
The Ambassador also said the Philippines can explore Finland’s web-based tools and phenomenon-based budgeting strategy to help mobilize citizen action against the climate crisis and realize the country’s sustainable development goals.
He commended the Philippines’ active participation in the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, of which Finland was among the key initiators.
Secretary Dominguez, for his part, said that under the Duterte administration, the Philippines has sustained its strong fiscal position, enhanced the ease of doing business, improved peace and order, and ramped up spending on infrastructure to fuel economic growth, in line with the President’s 0-to-10-point socioeconomic reform agenda.
This socioeconomic reform agenda also includes a comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP), which is now benefitting 99 percent of individual taxpayers through savings on personal income tax payments equivalent to about a month’s salary, he said.
Tax reform also raised taxes on sugary beverages and ‘sin’ products such as alcohol and tobacco, which is helping fund the government’s universal health care (UHC) program, Secretary Dominguez told the Finnish ambassador.
Tax reform has supported the Duterte administration’s aggressive infrastructure modernization program, and later helped buttress the Philippines’ sound fiscal position, borrowing strategy and high investment-grade credit rating when the government needed to raise additional funds for its COVID-19 response measures, Secretary Dominguez said during the meeting.
Secretary Dominguez welcomed Finland’s offer on using web-based tools to encourage Filipinos at the grassroots level to act on measures to mitigate the climate crisis, and informed Ambassador Pyykko of his strong advocacy, as chairperson-designate of the Climate Change Commission (CCC), on the ban against single-use plastics.
Ambassador Pyykkö congratulated Secretary Dominguez on supporting the ban on single-use plastics. The Ambassador said this would involve action down at the local level, which is what Finland has been doing as well to mitigate the impact of, and adapt to, the climate crisis.
Secretary Dominguez also thanked the Ambassador on his offer to share Finland’s knowledge on phenomenon-based budgeting, and instructed Finance Assistant Secretaries Paola Alvarez and Edita Tan to discuss this issue further with the Finnish Embassy.
Ambassador Pyykkö is the first resident Ambassador of Finland to the Philippines since Finland closed its Embassy in Manila in 2012.
During the interim, Finland was represented in the Philippines by its non-resident Ambassador based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.