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The Philippines is keen to further strengthen cooperation with the UAE in new and emerging areas, especially innovation and technology, as both countries are going to mark a milestone in diplomatic relations, a top Philippine diplomat told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).
“We will mark next year the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, and therefore, this is the best time to fully maximise the potential in relations,” said Alfonso Ferdinand A. Ver, the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE.
Space, AI cooperation
In an exclusive interview with WAM in the Philippine Embassy in the capital, A. Ver said, “We have recently been exploring cooperation in areas of innovation and technology. For example, the UAE has been taking a leading role in space exploration, having put a Martian probe into orbit last year, and putting the first Arab astronaut into space early this year.”
Given the potential complementarities, the Philippines, which has also been developing its own nanosatellite technology, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Space Cooperation with the UAE, between the two space agencies, PhilSA and UAESA, he pointed out.
The Philippines and the UAE are also discussing with the UAE an MoU on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, including in artificial intelligence (AI). “I foresee that this is only the beginning of our bilateral cooperation initiatives in new, innovative and technology-driven areas,” the ambassador emphasised.
Year of Sustainability, COP28
As the UAE has declared 2023 as the Year of Sustainability, A. Ver finds great potential for the Philippines and the UAE to cooperate in sustainable development initiatives.
“This year, as the UAE hosts COP28, the Philippines is discussing with the UAE a Philippines-UAE Framework Agreement on Renewable Energy. Likewise, the Philippines aims to propose an MoU on Climate Change Cooperation with the UAE,” he revealed.
As one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, the Philippines seeks to collaborate with the UAE for a sustainable future, given the Emirates' leading role in climate change initiatives, especially in renewable energy through Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company’s (Masdar) investments in pilot projects all over the world, the diplomat explained.
CEPA a priority this year
The Philippines is eager to enhance cooperation in trade and investment, the envoy stressed.
“Last year, the Philippines and the UAE signed an agreement to promote and protect mutual investments. This year, we are looking at Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to be signed, as we foresee so much potential for growth,” he noted.
“These initiatives are expected to boost trade and investments between the two countries, leading to more diversified economic activities, development of new industries, employment generation, and higher consumer spending as we partner for shared prosperity,” A. Ver explained.
The CEPA is expected to utilise trade and investment potential that is not being fully realised, he remarked.
50% increase in 2022 trade
In 2022, the bilateral trade between the UAE and the Philippines rose by 49.9 percent with a value of US$1.52 billion, compared to US$ 1.01 billion in 2021, the envoy said.
The Philippines' main exports to the UAE are electronic products, processed food and beverages, pineapple and pineapple products, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, among others.
The UAE was the Philippines’ largest source of petroleum and oil products in 2021, next to Saudi Arabia. The UAE was also the Philippines’ 17th trading partner (out of 230), 22nd export market (out of 206), and 16th import source (out of 213) in 2022.
“This underscores the UAE's importance to the Philippines as an economic partner.”
Estimated 1 million-strong community
“The bedrock of the Philippines-UAE bilateral relations remains to be our people-to-people relations,” the ambassador asserted.
“We have over a million Filipinos residing and working in the UAE, as per latest estimates. Therefore, bilateral labour relations are one of the most important aspects of bilateral cooperation.”
The Embassy is working with UAE authorities to always ensure the Filipino expatriates’ welfare, he said.
Many joint initiatives, including the Joint Committee on Bilateral Labour Cooperation (JCBLC), Joint Committee on Consular Matters (JCCM), and the Joint Committee on Combatting Human Trafficking provide mechanisms for bilateral cooperation on the protection of both Filipino and Emirati nationals in the respective countries, the envoy explained.
125th Independence Day
This week, the Philippine Embassy and community across the UAE celebrated the 125th Philippine National Day.
“This year has a personal meaning to me as this is my first opportunity as the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE to celebrate the Philippine National Day with my compatriots in this country, and I am proud of the achievements of my people in this country,” said the envoy who took charge in January this year.
Sharing his experiences as the envoy during the past five months, A. Ver said, “I have seen that the visionary leadership of late Sheikh Zayed is being continued in the same spirit by President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed who is faithful to the original tenets of tolerance and inclusion for people regardless of race and faith. He is also committed to innovation and technology, and to sustainability and preserving natural resources.”
In his previous capacity as the head of Philippine Foreign Ministry's Office overseeing relations with the Middle East and Northern African countries, A. Ver already had a good idea of the great strides the UAE making in its political and economic transformation.
“In five short months since my arrival, I was able to observe for myself the rapid pace at which the country is developing.”
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