PhilCham founding to further propel Philippine-Cambodia trade relations

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The founding board of directors – with HE Penn Sovicheat (centre left) and Frances Louissa Cleofas (third left) – was presented at the launch. Hean Rangsey

Thriving Philippine-Cambodia trade and commercial relations have received a further boost with the official launch of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (PhilCham Cambodia).

First formed in 2016 as a business network, PhilCham’s central mission is to promote Philippine-Cambodia commercial relations and to serve its members as a key resource for information sharing and business networking.

The launch held at Raffles Hotel Le Royal on January 21 was attended by HE Penn Sovicheat – undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce – who welcomed the creation of PhilCham in his keynote speech.

Vice-Consul and Third Secretary of the Philippine Embassy in Phnom Penh Frances Louissa Cleofas was also in attendance.

The launch saw the presentation of the founding board of directors, with Benilda Custodio-Fernando – audit director at PwC (Cambodia) – to serve as founding president.

“Everyone is valued and welcomed by the Philippine Chamber, and we will be happy to work and grow with you.

“By becoming a member of PhilCham Cambodia, you benefit from business intelligence from leaders of the Philippine business community, the promotion of your firm, networking, access to business and political leaders, social activities and issue advocacy,” Custodio-Fernando said.

Bilateral trade between the two Asean nations in a Covid-hit 2020 was worth some $49.05 million, with $25.09 million of imports into Cambodia, while $23.96 million of exports went the other way, according to Philippine Department of Trade and Industry statistics.

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Philippine companies have had a long presence in the Kingdom. Photo supplied

Sundee M Vinas was presented as founding executive director and Ronald C Almera, managing partner of GrantThornton (Cambodia), as founding vice-president.

“Cambodia’s rapidly developing economy, open investment laws, attractive tax incentives and competitive labour force have enticed several businesses and investments in various sectors, and as of last October, there were over 90 Philippine companies registered at the Ministry of Commerce.

“With the establishment of PhilCham Cambodia and in partnership with the Philippine Embassy, we are looking into the possibility of seeing more Philippine franchises and brands in the Kingdom within the next five to 10 years.

“Philippine franchises and brands, as well as Philippine companies operating in the Kingdom, offer quality products, goods and competitive services that cater to the young and dynamic population of Cambodia. In addition, the presence of over 7,000 Filipinos in Cambodia, who are mostly professionals, show how Filipinos are well liked and sought after by companies in the country,” said Vinas.

Vinas – who is the owner and founder of FiDi Events and Entertainments – said developments regionally and further afield are set to boost investment and business opportunities.

“Asean economic integration and the recently concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – RCEP – aim to improve market access for goods and boost trade facilitation developments.

“Given these developments, we expect more investments in the region and an increased flow of goods, not only among Asean, but also with RCEP members, including China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand,” she said.

‘Infinite possibilities’

PhilCham began in 2016 as an informal network of Philippine business owners and executives based in Cambodia that served as venue for sharing information and best practices on doing business in the Kingdom.

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Purefoods Tender Juicy – the Philippines’ No1 hotdog brand – is available in Cambodia. Photo supplied

This was recently re-established to further promote Philippine-Cambodia commercial relations and serve as a venue for interaction and collaboration among Philippine executives and entrepreneurs, as well as non-Filipino business owners wishing to do business in Cambodia.

Jay Ian L Capungan, founder of the Teachers’ Learning Action Guild in Cambodia and English second language coordinator at Footprints International School, is to serve as founding secretary.

Romyr A Libo-on – founder and managing director of Cambodia International Models, and the national director for Miss Universe-Cambodia – will serve as founding treasurer.

Completing the board of directors are Maria Rowena Medina, Ninja Flor Ricafort-Hesita and Ben Betonio.

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Benilda Custodio-Fernando. Hean Rangsey

Medina is marketing and digital communications manager at Oakwood Premier, while Ricafort-Hesita is the director of Happybee Food Cambodia, who will be bringing the famous international Philippine fast food chain Jollibee to the Kingdom.

Betonio is the executive director and assistant to the chairman and CEO of the Royal Group of Companies.

The launch primarily focused on the introduction of the board of directors and the uniquely designed, first-of-its-kind “PhilCham” mobile app developed by Bronx Technology to connect to partners and members via Android and iOS devices.

“With the Philippine Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, the Embassy has a partner in tapping the full potential of Philippines-Cambodia commercial, trade and investment relations.

“The formal launching of this Chamber embodies infinite possibilities in furthering the economic growth of both countries,” said Cleofas, the vice-consul.