Like it or not, today’s business landscape is incredibly competitive and will continue to be so. It’s no wonder that companies scramble to build, maintain, and expand their edge over competitors. To get that proverbial edge, the savviest of entrepreneurs are exploring strategies that they have never pursued before.
Among these strategies is establishing businesses overseas. After all, one can make money anywhere in the world. In recent years, the Philippines has become a favored destination for aspiring moguls and tycoons. Opening foreign companies in the Philippines allows them to be successful even outside of their home countries.
Any businessman worth his salt would do his research before investing his hard-earned money in another country. After all, doing business in the Philippines is not for the faint-hearted. If you have ever thought of branching out abroad, you must be aware of the benefits and risks of doing so. To guide you, here is a short list of the pros and cons of starting your own business in the Philippines as a foreigner:
- More Holidays in the Philippines
- The Law Favors the Laborer
- Heavy Traffic
- Constitutional and Legal Limitations for Foreigners
Pros of Starting Foreign Companies in the Philippines
A Large Market
With a population of over 100 million, the Philippines offers numerous opportunities for any enterprising businessman to sell his products and services. Filipinos have an affinity for Western culture and are famously consumer-driven. Foreigners would have an easier time adjusting here compared to other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia.
Despite the great income disparity between population sectors, a smart entrepreneur can profit by honing in on and marketing to specific segments. In addition, locating your business in the Philippines allows you to take advantage of the greater ASEAN and Asia-Pacific markets.
Low-Cost, Talented Labor
Naturally hardworking, Filipinos are the dream employees of every company. Each year, the country’s universities and colleges add thousands of graduates to an already large labor pool. This has been – and still is – a boon to the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, with the average Filipino’s good command of the English language and excellent communication skills.
Salaries in the country are also much lower compared to North America and European countries. With the exchange rate hovering at around PhP 50 to USD 1, foreign companies in the Philippines definitely get more bang for their (payroll) buck.
Despite being an archipelagic country, the main islands of the Philippines are surprisingly well-connected to each other and the outside world. Large cargo shipments mostly utilize the seaports, while smaller ones go through the various airports dotting the major cities.
Within the greater metropolitan Manila area, the key business hubs are Makati City, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), and Ortigas Center. Rivaling the likes of Hong Kong and Singapore, these places boast of state-of-the-art, eco-friendly communities that bring residents and businesses together.
While there remains a lot to be done to improve the country’s infrastructure, President Rodrigo Duterte has recently initiated the “Build, Build, Build” program to fast track major infrastructure projects that would benefit both local and foreign companies in the Philippines.
Incentives from the Government
The Philippine government, through the Board of Investments (BOI) and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), provides several incentives to attract foreign investments, especially into priority areas and industries marked for development.
Fiscal incentives include income tax holidays, tax exemptions and deductions, and preferential rates on the final tax of gross income (for PEZA-registered companies). Among the non-tax incentives are simplification of customs procedures for imported products, issuance of resident visas to foreign investors and their families, and the privilege to operate a bonded trading or manufacturing warehouse.
If it’s your first time to open an foreign-owned company in the Philippines, don’t forget to avail of these goodies!
Cons of Starting Foreign Companies in the Philippines
More Holidays in the Philippines
The Philippines has 18 official non-working holidays. Many of these are of great cultural significance, such as Christmas, New Year, the Christian Holy Week, and All Souls’ Day.
On the other hand, these holidays provide a ready-made, annually-occurring boon to consumer-oriented businesses. Marketing your products and services could not become any easier, with the extended Christmas season in the Philippines that unofficially starts in September and ends in February.
The Law Favors the Laborer
Most of the labor laws in the Philippines are geared to favor employees over management. For example, companies cannot simply fire underperforming employees at will. Before fully terminating someone, the employer has to prove first that the staff member concerned was at fault or failed to pass the standards of his/her probationary period. Companies are also mandated by Philippine law to provide severance pay and 13th-month pay.
These conditions may seem unfair to some, but overall such laws have contributed to higher morale and a lower turnover rate among Filipino employees compared to their foreign counterparts. That is something any smart businessman would appreciate.
Sad to say, the Philippines lacks any kind of efficient mass transportation system. According to the Asian Development Bank, Metro Manila tops the list of 278 most congested cities in developing Asia. The sheer volume of public utility buses, jeepneys, and private vehicles on its roads during work hours leads to slow-moving traffic at best and outright gridlock at worst.
The good news is that various skyways and expressways, as well as a new train line in the northern part of Metro Manila, are being built to ease the traffic situation. It may take some time, but things are bound to get better.
Constitutional and Legal Limitations for Foreigners
Despite the government-provided incentives mentioned above, some foreign businessmen still hesitate to shortlist the Philippines as an investment destination because of the restriction on foreign ownership of land. They may, however, own 40 percent of a corporation that owns land. Most businesses are allowed to be 100% foreign-owned. The Foreign Investment Negative List contains the limitations of foreign ownership mandated by the constitution and specific laws.
It must be noted that 100% foreign ownership of a company catering to the Philippine local market is allowed, subject to having a minimum paid-in capital of USD 200,000.00. An exemption may be obtained for foreign companies in the Philippines that employ a minimum of 50 direct employees or use advanced technology, for a minimum paid-in capital of USD 100,000.00.
Need Help with Starting Your New Business?
You may be discouraged by some of the cons we enumerated, but don’t be. The Philippines has been one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, and it will continue to expand in the coming years. With its friendly people and climate, you have even more incentives to build your dream business here.
If you don’t know where (and how) to start, we at DAYANAN Business Consultancy are here to help. Contact us today.