Strengthening economic cooperation - GulfToday

Strengthening economic cooperation

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Ramon Lopez (middle) and some members of the public-private sectors delegation for the “Philippines Country Briefing” at the Kempinski Hotel on Friday. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

UAE Minister of State Ahmed Bin Ali Al Sayegh and Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez re-affirmed the strengthening of bilateral ties between the two countries on Friday afternoon.

Lopez, also the Bangkota (Coral Reef) Philippine Pavilion commissioner general, heads the 232-strong public-private sectors delegation including 90 professional theatre artists for the Feb. 11 “Philippine National Day,” 121 days ahead of the June 12 Philippine Independence Day commemoration, and held within the time frame of the landmark Expo 2020 Dubai that ends on March 31.

The Philippine flag was raised twice-at the Bangkota Philippine Pavilion at 12 noon and at the Stage of the Nations within the Al Wasl Plaza at 4:30pm -amidst the strains of the “Lupang Hinirang” (“Chosen Land”) and before dignitaries as well as a huge crowd of Filipino families and their friends from across the seven emirates.

At 7:30pm and from the Jubilee Park, while awaiting the world premiere of the one-hour highly-technologically/digitally-crafted musical narrative, “Daluyong ng Diwa” (“Tides of the Soul”), and the concert of famous Filipino rock star Bamboo, Filipinos cheered, as they were pleasantly surprised, when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte greeted them through a video clip, beamed from the stage.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Republic of The Philippines, who recently got out of the COVID19 self-isolation after having been exposed to a Malacanang (Presidential Palace) staff, reminded the Filipinos in the UAE to unceasingly do their part in “defeating” the yet-to-cease Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

He congratulated the people behind the Bangkota: “The Philippine Pavilion, our pavilion, is called Bangkota, stands proudly today, a product of hard work, intelligence, creativity and fashion that define our Filipino nation.

The Bangkota celebrates our fundamental identity as an archipelagic nation; that chronicles the story of our people and describes the dreams and aspirations for the future. We are a country that is both a destination and a crossroad. Our people are forward-looking yet increasingly global in mindset. We journey in our archipelago and travel beyond. Yet, we remain rooted in our values and traditions and we remain connected with each and every one, to our past and to our future, and with our kababayans (countrymen), and our new friends and families beyond the Philippine shores.

This is a global Bangkota being there through the years, animated by the determined Filipino spirit as it is recognised the world over, especially now in Dubai, which the world is watching. I am proud of you. We are proud of our participation at the Expo 2020 Dubai.

We are proud of our nation. Please continue to do well and to bring honour to our nation. We still have many things to do as we build a better Philippines and a better world. Be assured that your government is committed to do everything for our people, our kababayans wherever destiny takes them.”

From the 4:30pm ceremonies, Al Sayegh, in his welcome speech, described the Bangkota as “built on a distinctive and sustainable design” that displays not only the country’s “scenic” landscapes but also the “successes and innovations of its friendly people; giving us a glimpse of the vibrant culture and heritage but more importantly its growth and its vision for the future.” He termed the Expo2020 Dubai Philippine participation as “substantial.” He added that through the Bangkota, conversations to discussions and agreements, regarding collaborations or partnerships as well as investments on “infrastructure, ICT (and) ecotourism,” are continually being initiated for the benefit of the entire world: “The Philippines positions (itself) as a key trading partner in the region. The relationship between our two countries, which was established in the early 1970s, is based on shared visions and mutual respect. Given that the Philippines is one of the most dynamic economies in the East Asia-Pacific region, we are keen on exploring new prospects of cooperation between our public and private sectors within areas of common interest.” He highlighted the significance of the Filipino diaspora, the UAE, having become one of the many countries across the world to benefit.

For his part, Lopez, in his speech, underscored the fact that the 4,000-year narrative of the Austronesian Filipino people and their contributions to the world had to be re-told so that generations would know and Expo2020 Dubai gave that chance. He was thankful to the UAE leadership led by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, for taking care of and deepening in each Filipino the essence of “service.”

The host of the “Philippines Country Briefing”-that which allowed Agriculture Secretary William Dar, Public Works and Highways Roger Mercado, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Philippine Stock Exchange Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon Monzon pitched in for foreign direct investments to interested government and private entities in the UAE-at the Kempinski Hotel (Mall of the Emirates) on Friday morning, was hopeful on the enhancement of economic ties between the two governments. He expressed gratefulness to the leadership of UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Mohamed Hadi Al Hussaini and Minister of Foreign Trade Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi as they steered discussions for the realization of improving well-protected foreign direct investments and partnerships as well as the widening of access to markets, beneficial to both countries, via the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The latter was initially floated during the Dec. 8 “ASEAN Global Business Forum organized by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), part of Expo2020 Dubai activities.

Lopez announced that from the Kempinski Hotel event, “several companies in the UAE had expressed Letters of Intent as (three) had signed a Memoranda of Understanding” (MoUs) helping generate 3,900 jobs in the Philippines and all these valued at $590.5 million. The three MoUs are in the fields of healthcare, tourism development, dairy and milk processing industry, and renewable (hydrogen) infrastructure development.

Lopez said: “The Expo2020 duvbai has been a game changer in the Philippines-UAE economic relations opening up unlimited opportunities in trade, tourism and investments. Total trade between our two countries grew by 35 per cent in the value of $951 million in 2021 from about $700 million in 2020. Philippine exports is valued at $245 million while imports doubled to $706 million. The UAE is the biggest export partner of the Philippines in the Middle East and Abu Dhabi serves as the transit hub for Philippine exports (to other countries).”

From the “Philippines Country Briefing,” DCCI-International Relations Vice President Hassan Al Hashemi acknowledged the enhancement of UAE-Philippine trade relations made possible by the “ASEAN Global Business Forum.” He said that this and the people-to-people relations between the two countries “will not go to waste and will become stronger.”

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