MANILA, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Philippine corporations and government agencies signed an integrity pledge on Wednesday, seeking to stop corruption and tax evasion as part of efforts to improve the business environment in the poor Southeast Asian nation.
About 700 companies signed the pledge to promote and adhere to ethical and business standards, including leading conglomerates Ayala Corp and JG Summit Holdings .
The Philippines ranked 134th out of 178 countries in Transparency International’s 2010 corruption perception index, and pervasive corruption is repeatedly cited as a major obstacle to investment and economic development.
President Benigno Aquino said signing the pledge alone was not be enough to stop corruption, urging business executives to pay the correct taxes.
“In the past, perhaps you could have justified not paying taxes by saying it would have been used to fatten the wallets of corrupt officials,” he told a summit organised by the Makati Business Club and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
“But as we strive to show you that that is no longer the case, I hope we can urge our fellow citizens to pay their share of taxes. I urge you to stand alongside us and do your part.”
Tax evasion has cut government revenues, hampering the ability to upgrade infrastructure and fund social spending.
Through enforcement of existing laws, the government wants to raise revenues to 17 percent of GDP from 14.6 percent in 2009.
Among those signing the pledge were local units of foreign firms such as Nestle and Siemens (SIEGn.DE).
Ramon del Rosario, head of the influential Makati Business Club, said another 300 firms had expressed interest in signing the pledge.
Reporting By Manny Mogato; Editing by John Mair and Yoko Nishikawa