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Phl, Finland explore possible ICT, energy deals

Free(3rd from left) Ahlberg, Makitalo, and Teemu Laakkonnen pose with filipino counterparts
in a dialogue held at an uptown cebu hotel

Business stakeholders from Cebu and Finland have delved into initial talks centering on renewable energy and Information and Communications Technology
(ICT) as both parties ready themselves for renewed trade and business linkages with each other.

These two fields rank among Finland’s (somewhat of an overlooked economic dynamo
in Europe) foremost economic strengths, as representatives from both business delegations extolled their respective assets in an effort to firm up new business ventures to broaden their market base.

Jose Ng, vice president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)-Visayas chapter, pointed out Cebu’s lofty rankings for the past several years as a perennial Top 10 placer among the “world’s best islands” as cited by Conde Nast Traveler.

Cebu-Finland accolades

Cebu was also cited in a Tholons survey as the seventh best city in the world for outsourcing in 2016 after having spent several years at the eighth spot, while competing head-on with city counterparts at least thrice as large in land area and over five times as much in population.

Also discussed was Cebu’s stellar performance in the investment field, hosting nearly
400 Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) spread out over various economic and IT zones throughout the city and province.

On the other hand, Finland boasts of more impressive figures in various global fields of importance. To cite a few; World’s Best in Global Competitiveness by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2015; World’s Best in Press Freedom by the Press Freedom Index; World’s Third Least Corrupt Country by Corruption Perceptions in 2014; World’s Second Best in Gender Quality by the WEF in 2014, among others.

This was declared by Siv Ahlberg, programme director of Finnpartnership, who also added that the absence of resources forced her countrymen to think out-of-the-box and innovate in order to become more self-reliant and environmentally focused.

“We have over 2,000 companies affiliated with Cleantech. We recycle over 90 percent of our water and implement strict environmental laws and policies. This covers 26 million hectares of forestry, or 68 percent of our total land area, and 200,000 lakes. We are also an open market under the Nordic countries composed of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway,” she related in a forum held at an uptown Cebu hotel.

Cleantech is a giant company offering varied opportunities in bioenergy, wind power, arctic energy, and energy-efficient construction.

The company is composed of technology, services, solutions, process innovations, and products that help reduce the environmental load caused by human activity.

The state of ICT is likewise strong in Finland as evidenced by the presence of fixed broadband in 97 percent of the homes, classification of 90 percent of the population as regular internet users, 85 percent as online news readers, and 73 percent as online shoppers.

Petteri Makitalo, a Finnish businessman based in Manila, offered a realistic point of view on the biggest challenges foreign investors face in the Philippines. These concern dealings with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the judicial system, and the customs department. He did not elaborate.

Makitalo is the general manager of The Freefood Co. He is also the vice president of the Nordic Chamber of Commerce, as well as chair of the Foreign Chamber Council of the Philippines.

Teemu Lakkonen, Finnish deputy head of mission, added that their market economy provides health care and education for free. Likewise, the country is free from natural disasters or eternal conflicts with other nations.

The forum concluded with a B2B session with IT-BPM, manufacturing, and clean energy stakeholders from both countries for possible collaborations and partnerships.