Doing business

Current business situation

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provides advice for business travellers and tourists going to the Philippines. This is regularly updated and should be checked before planning travel.

Business culture

Any Australian business looking to conduct business in the Philippines will need to take local cultural dynamics into consideration.

Most Philippine companies have a hierarchical management style. This slows down the decision-making process as different levels of the hierarchy need to be passed until the final decision maker is reached.

Suits are recommended for business meetings and for more formal occasions, a dinner jacket and tie are suitable.

During first time meetings it is recommended to address the Filipino person by using their surname and title (for example, ‘Secretary Cruz’ or ‘Director Mendoza’) as a sign of respect. After the initial meeting, titles can generally be disregarded in conversation, but it is preferable to use them in correspondence.

Filipinos normally use two forms of address/names. Their ‘full name’ is used for official business transactions,  such as signing of contracts while their ‘nickname’ is the one that is usually seen on their business card and the name that they prefer other people to address them during a conversation.

The exchange of business cards is an important part of doing business, always bring a lot when travelling to the Philippines on business and use both hands when presenting or receiving business cards. A handshake is the standard form of greeting for both men and women. It is common to shake hands with everyone present upon arrival and upon departure from the meeting.

Personal relationships are very important in the Philippine business culture, with personal interaction and face-to-face meetings considered necessary to establish and maintain a solid business relationship. Filipinos will normally engage in light conversation and even ask personal questions as this is how they establish a relationship. Humour plays an important role in relationship building but avoid topics on politics and religion.

Filipinos are very sensitive about losing “face” and place a premium on their reputation. Avoid direct confrontation, criticism or actions which will cause offence or public embarrassment for the Filipino business person as this may prove counterproductive. Always be polite and courteous when talking with Filipino business contacts.

Related to the concept of “face” is the hesitation of the Filipino to say “no”. In order to save face and to avoid disagreement, Filipinos will rarely say “no”. Foreigners should closely observe the subtle nuances in the body language to discern the non-verbal message being relayed by the business person.

Filipinos have a relaxed concept of time (Filipino time) and may not always be punctual for business meetings. Business appointments should be made a few weeks before arrival and it is recommended that a call to reconfirm be made a day before as confirmed appointments can be cancelled or postponed at the last minute.

Australian companies doing business in the Philippines face operational challenges from corruption and bureaucracy, especially facilitation payments and speed of approvals; poor and unreliable infrastructure and logistics; an overburdened judiciary and comparatively less stringent law enforcement. These challenges significantly increase operating risk, however many Australian companies are successfully conducting business despite these challenges.

Links and resources

Government, business and trade

Australia-Philippines Business Council
Australia and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines
Department of Trade and Industry
Philippines-Australia Business Council
Philippine Economic Zone Authority
Philippine Government Portal
Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission

News and media

Manila Bulletin Online
The Manila Times
Philippine Star

Please note: This list of websites and resources is not definitive. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by Austrade. The information provided is a guide only. The content is for information and carries no warranty; as such, the addressee must exercise their own discretion in its use. Australia’s anti-bribery laws apply overseas and Austrade will not provide business related services to any party who breaches the law and will report credible evidence of any breach. For further information, please see foreign bribery information and awareness pack.