THE Philippines is both one of Asia's fastest growing economies and a newly industrialised country, and there is "great potential" for Singapore to further two-way trade and investment in the coming years.
Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman Teo Siong Seng made this point on Friday shortly before he led a group of Singapore business leaders to meet visiting Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
Mr Duterte, who wrapped up a two-day state visit to Singapore, was accompanied by Secretary for Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez at the closed-door session.
The event was jointly organised by SBF and the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre of the Philippines Embassy in Singapore, and supported by trade promotion agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.
In a statement, Mr Teo noted Singapore's "close bilateral relationship" with the Philippines, and stressed that the Philippines is an important overseas destination for Singapore businesses. The executives discussed various topics including the economic outlook of the two countries, foreign investments and business partnerships.
On their part, Mr Duterte and Mr Lopez talked about the challenges and potential trade and investment opportunities with the Singapore companies.
According to SBF's 2015-16 National Business Survey of its 22,500 member companies, 95 per cent of the respondents indicated that they had an overseas business presence in Asia, with the Philippines ranking as the seventh most popular market where SBF members wanted to venture into.
Singapore was the Philippines' fourth- largest trading partner in 2015 (after Japan, China, and the United States), and the fifth-largest foreign investor (after the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, and the US).
Singapore and the Philippines - two of the five founding members of Asean - established diplomatic relations back in 1969.
IE Singapore's assistant chief executive officer Tan Soon Kim said that the global economy slowdown aside, the Philippines continues to show strong growth that is driven by domestic demand and infrastructure spending.
This year, IE Singapore facilitated a number of Singapore companies from the renewable energy and consumerism sector to secure their first projects in the Philippines.
Some of these companies decided to set up in the Philippines after participating in a workshop on consumerism that the agency organised in Manila back in April, said Mr Tan.
Echoing a similar call made by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at a state banquet for Mr Duterte on Thursday, Mr Tan urged Singapore companies to consider expanding outside of the capital Manila and go into other cities like Cebu and Davao.
"Cebu and Davao are the next economically developed regions in the Philippines with opportunities in the urban development and agri-business sectors," he said.
On its part, SBF said it plans to work with the Philippine-Singapore Business Council and the Makati Business Club to organise activities in 2017 for Singapore companies with business interests in the Philippines.
There will be business missions next year to Manila, Davao, Cebu and Clark, as well as industry roundtable discussions to educate Singapore businesses on the new opportunities brought about by Mr Duterte's administration.