Former Senator Eddie “Kuya Eddie” Ilarde, the first president of the Philippines-Vietnam Friendship Association, returned to Manila from a visit to Hanoi, greatly impressed by what he saw.

The former senator said in the “Phoenix-like Vietnam” story published by the Manila Bulletin on November 16.

“Vietnam has emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia. It has an open Foreign Investment Law, offering up to 100% foreign ownership,” he said in an interview with Radio Tapat. He added that Vietnam’s open policies had resulted in low trade barriers, fast custom clearances, and simple administrative procedures, thus creating a dynamic business climate.

As of June, 2014, more than 16,300 FDI projects were operational in Vietnam, with investments of more than 238 billion USD. Manufacturers like Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc., Nokia Oyj, and Intel Corp. have set up operations in Vietnam, an alternative to China.

The Philippines ranks 17th out of the countries that invested in Vietnam, and Ilarde said he was keen to bring more Filipino businessmen to Vietnam and attract Vietnamese firms to the Philippines.

Asked about his impressions of Vietnam , Ilarde said countries affected by war, like Vietnam, often managed to achieve outstanding progress after experiencing extreme difficulties.

Vietnam’s reform policy of 1986 is proving successful. With 5.4 percent economic growth in 2013, Vietnam’s economy has expanded even faster this year with almost 6.2 percent growth during the third quarter of 2014. The consumer price index for September rose by 2.25 percent compared to December 2013, the lowest rate in a whole decade. The interest rate is 2 percent lower than in 2013, credit growth increased by 7.26 percent and is expected to reach 12-14 percent this year, Ilarde explained.

He said Vietnam’s foreign currency reserves were at a record level high at 35 billion USD. The country’s balance of payments is positive.

Vietnam’s poverty rate has been lowered to around 10 percent in the last three years, Ilarde said, adding that the Philippines could learn from Vietnam ’s industriousness and frugality.