Political Science sophomore Billy Chang rose from his seat while putting on his back pack and thanking me for the hour-long tête-à-tête we had shared. The young Chinese national strode out of the burger restaurant to catch his class, happily looking forward to sharing with his teacher and classmates some ideas he had just acquired. I had of course made him promise not to identify me as the source of those ideas, and to describe them as mere opinions from a lawyer. Hereunder is a discussion of those opinions.
I find it a bit unfortunate, though not unexpected, that Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has assailed the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) as having been forged in “bad faith” by and between US Pres. Barack Obama and PH Pres. BS Aquino lll. Well, make no mistake about this: The lady who is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is among the sharpest lawyers in the upper chamber, but she’s still human, given as she is to AGD (attention getting device) antics at moments least expected. With all due respect, I differ from her opinion for the following reasons.
1) The two EDCA signatories, National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, were no ornery “subalterns”, or subordinates who were unclothed with authority as suggested by MDS, but “alter egos” (other selves) who had been authorized by their respective presidents to act on the document in their behalf;
2) A sensitive examination of the two presidents’ demeanor, their words and manner of speaking and body language, particularly Obama’s, demonstrates a level of diplomacy that is associated with good faith; and
3) In the absence of any palpable indicia of bad faith — and there appears to be none in the premises — the universal principle of “presumption of good faith” shall prevail.
EDCA is an agreement that partakes of the nature of a treaty and, as such, should have been brought to the senate for approval, consistent with the upper house’s constitutional role in treaty making. It isn’t too late, and there should be no problem in that regard because a comfortable majority of the senators are P-Noy’s allies. Until then, EDCA remains open to question before the Supreme Court, although I believe the treaty will ultimately hold sway under its scrutiny.
And as for other EDCA-related issues that have loomed as grounds for attacking the agreement as unconstitutional, the high tribunal will hopefully see those anti-EDCA petitions as exercises in futility, given our people’s widespread pro-American culture and an exigent imperative for a counterbalance against saber-rattling China. The Court may well take judicial notice of our people’s ingrained stars-and-stripes second nature, and recognize it as its wellspring of vitality and direction in the discharge of its office. After all, the judiciary is ordained to serve, like the rest of government, the interests of its creator: the sovereign citizens.
With respect to those Maoists and other Communist-leaning militants who made a lot of infernal racket during Obama’s two-day-one-night state visit, my comment on Billy’s worry is: these Reds mouth nationalism and patriotism, but power is all they want. There is no way they can win the hearts and minds of nearly a hundred million compatriots who oppose them. Let us recall that when Martial Law enforcers hunted them down, many fled the country for Uncle Sam’s protection. During Obama’s state visit, they burned effigies of Uncle Sam. In fact, they have never denounced China’s bullying tactics!! AGD syndrome?!
Incidentally, many seriously question the quality of the United States’ commitment to defend the Philippines under the terms of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, as modified by EDCA. In this respect, I hold the view that because at that time we had not yet officially defined our West Philippine Sea territory, much less declared an adverse claim to it against the whole world, the “vagueness” of Obama’s commitment to lend us military support in case of external aggression is understandable.
However, this vagueness shouldn’t discourage us from believing that the black US President, whose great rhetoric twice brought him to the White House, used the same verbal finesse not to hoodwink us but to pledge — in the most diplomatic manner possible — America’s willingness to shed her blood in defense of her Filipino brothers in times of war.
Let Mr. Barack Obama’s ironclad pledge continue to peal in the air, in which are couched his delicate reassurances — “…Our goal is not to conquer China; our goal is not to contain China…(but) to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes. We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks.”
If “actions speak louder than words”, diplomacy may again prove more forceful than bullets.
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It is said that while the passing away of a person leaves a void that no one can fill, and a heartache no one can heal – it is love however that leaves a memory no one can steal.
Atty. Susan Dumlao-Vargas popularly known as Ching Vargas, former Deputy Executive Secretary of Administration and Finance, Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, passed away on March 29, 2014 at 6:45 p.m. after battling the Big C for almost two years, a battle she fought courageously that she hoped she would win – but was not afraid to lose either – as she knew that her journey to the after-life would lead to her blissful meeting with her Creator who gave her life.
Ching Vargas left behind four finely-molded children and loved ones, good-looking Vanesa or Bunny, the eldest, who succeeds her as the Madre de familia of the Vargas family, Allan Unlayao , Bunny’s husband, and their kids, Vincent, Victoria, Yong and Vittorio; the second daughter, pretty and charming Veronica or Caron, whose lovely features and winsome demeanor take from her mom, Caron’s husband Erick Cruz, and their children, Camille and Cali. Ching’s third child is Alfred or Alfie, the handsome movie actor and now Congressman of the 5th District of Quezon City, his with beautiful Yasmine or “Yash” Espiritu, and their three (3) daughters, Alexandra, Ching-Ching and Aryana, and Ching’s last son, debonair businessman, Patrick Michael or PM – his fiancée, statuesque Christine or Krissy.
Ching’s husband Alfredo Vargas, Jr., who hailed from Sta. Maria, Bulacan predeceased Ching three years ago.
The endless stream of people from a cross-section of our society that trooped to the Sta. Maria Della Strada Parish in Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City to view Ching’s remains, and to condole with her loved ones during the wake, as well as in the last funeral rites at the Our Lady of Pentecost Parish in Xavierville, Quezon City, gave a glimpse of how Ching Vargas was viewed with love, respect and admiration by these who paid homage to her on her last days on earth.
Ching Vargas was a classic beauty and brains individual. She graduated Valedictorian in her high school class at the San Nicolas College in Surigao City, where she grew up like every typical probinsiyana lass fond of movie actors and actresses, and even collected pictures of them, dutifully and fondly brought to her by her sister, Miren Dumlao-Santos, a Ph.D in molecular biology. She was a candidate for Binibining Pilipinas in the late sixties.
Her 1972 classmates, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, former Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez, Atty. Teddy Cruz, among others from the Ateneo Law School, from where she finished her Bachelor of Laws degree, recall that Ching was the classmate with beautiful face that had a captivating smile, who was a bubbly and kind student who had a talent for singing, guitar-playing and dancing. It is no wonder that daughters Bunny and Caron had exceptional singing voices, who together with Ching’s grandchildren, who apparently got the same genes, gave an excellent performance at her wake.
Ching Vargas had also a talent for oil painting as evidenced by four (4) of her oil paintings of various beautiful flowers. Ching’s law classmates, who called themselves Barangay ’72, also dished out a song for their dear departed friend. Basil Valdez, the singing sensation of the seventies and eighties also did live renditions of beautifully crafted songs that contributed to the solemnity of the occasion, flooding back memories with beautiful and unforgettable moments with the person lying in state.
Likewise, the famed violinist John Lesaca played the favorite songs of Ching. Speakers after speakers at the necrological rites eulogized Ching, from her dorm-mate at the UP Diliman, Carmen Roa-Africa, her law classmates, former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, former Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez, Atty. Teddy Cruz. Even retired Supreme Court Justice Flerida Ruth-Romero, who was incidentally my law professor in the UP College of Law, paid tribute to her and so with many others as well as this writer.
They were all one in saying that Ching Vargas was the epitome of grace, kindness, competence, honesty, caring and thoughtfulness. Her thoughtfulness as a friend is legendary. She always remember to greet her friends on their birthdays, on Father’s Day, on Mother’s Day, in every special occasions – gifting them with all kinds of souvenirs that she brought from her travels abroad.
Ching Vargas was a loving person, a principled wife, a caring mother, a doting grandmother, a very thoughtful friend. Ching Vargas not only was a public servant, par excellence – but one with solid rock integrity, unsullied and unchallenged. In sum, Ching Vargas was a walking testament of a caring, generous, and compassionate human being. She was the quintessential mother, friend and public servant – that is to say, she is the perfect example of a class or quality.
I met Ching in the UP College of Law when she was freshman in the Ateneo Law School though a mutual friend, Freddie Alday, who is also a lawyer. Freddie Alday describes Ching as an “extra-ordinary person” and “super kind”, who accommodated every referral he made for her assistance, regardless of their status in life or political beliefs.
Ching Vargas touched and moved many lives. Her wholesome persona, her humble ways, her accommodating demeanor, and her limitless extension of her helping hand to those who sought her assistance won her the hearts of those who had the golden chance to cross her path – and they were legions – which was apparent from the continuous flow of people who went to her wake from day 1, to pay their last respects and say their prayers for her.
She spoke highly and proudly of her children, Bunny, Caron, Alfred or Alfie, and PM whom she showered with undying love, endless tenderness and unyielding devotion as a single parent for twenty (20) years. That she molded her children to her admirable image is quiet evident by the boundless charming traits they have exhibited to those who came to share in their grief.
Ching Vargas reared her children under circumstances not exactly comfortable and ideal, yet her innate goodness and fierce mother instinct moved her to raise them into fine individuals. That she deserves admiration from those who look for a role model of a mother, in unquestionable.
In her death bed, Ching Vargas asked her children to strictly live by the highest standard of ethics, of which she herself lived, of which qualities are apprehended to her name: integrity, competence, compassion and honesty.
On July 16, 2013, 10:07 a.m., apparently hearing from the news that I have been engaged by Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to handle the case of Davao policemen charged of murdering the kidnappers of a Chinese businesswoman while she was in captivity, I received the following message from Ching:
“Good evening Sal! Hurrah, you are the Davao cops’ lawyer. My heart bleeds for the police. Warms regards to you and Mayor Duterte. Hope he remembers me.”
Her compassion for the policemen despite adverse public perception on men on uniform could not be hidden.
Of course, the popular and controversial Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City remembers Ching Vargas. Despite Mayor Duterte’s hectic and back-breaking schedule, coming from Kuala Lumpur, as an official guest of the Department of Tourism of Malaysia, he went to pay his last respects to her personal friend at her wake on April 2, 2014, at about 2:00 p.m. before he flew back to Davao.
Merci Gutierrez, the former Ombudsman, one of her closest and dearest friends, she is a wedding Godmother to Caron, while Ching was the baptism Godmother of Mercy’s daughter, lawyer Marge Gutierrez, Ching, and I had dined together at a fine dining place in Ortigas Center sometime before she fell ill – and in our exchange of text messages – we planned to have a three-some dinner as soon as Ching got well. Of course, we had hoped she would lick the big C – but as faith would have it, we finally have that dinner at the wake on April 2, 2014 – with Ching in our midst but in the spiritual plane.
Farewell our dearest friend Ching Vargas, we will miss your abundant charming ways, your unparalleled thoughtfulness, your beautiful face and endearing smile.
Your children will miss your boundless love, your everlasting caring, and your unending tenderness – but the sweet memories you left behind shall be in our hearts and minds forever – and as we look up above the galaxy of stars – we will remember you as we see the brightest of stars – because among the mortals that walked amongst us – you were the brightest, the kindest and the most loving. We love you Ching Vargas.
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The United States Embassy Manila, in partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and the U.S. Potato Board, hosted an event showcasing food, wine, and beverages from the American Pacific Northwest region.
The event is one in a series designed by the Embassy’s Foreign Agricultural Service to promote theuse of quality U.S. Food and beverage products in the Philippines.
Agricultural Counselor Philip Shull underlined the importance of agricultural trade between both countries:
“U.S. food and beverage exports to the Philippines grew 15 percent in 2013, and reached the US$1 billion milestone.
The Philippines is the number one market in South East Asia and the tenth largest market in the world for U.S. food and beverage products.
$1 billion in food and beverage exports is roughly 25,000 container trucks stretching more than 300 kilometers.
This is in the spirit of “Welcome” to the new Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianua. I’ll highlight the significant elements from the excellent 4,862 word article written by the Chinese Embassy in Manila’s spokesperson and deputy chief of the Political Section, Mr. Zhang Hwa, in response to the Philippine’s filing of its “memorial” to the Arbitral Tribunal.
The Chinese Embassy spokesman’s paper made ten essential points:
1) The Philippines’ push for international arbitration undermined China-Philippines relations as it disregards China’s position;
2) China does not accept the arbitration because “direct negotiations is the most common and preferred way to resolve such disputes… “ and China has successfully solved the boundary issues with 12 of its land neighbors…. 20,000 kms. Of boundary… In 2000, China and Vietnam equitably delineated the maritime boundary in the Beibu Gulf and …. signed the Agreement on Fishery Cooperation….China sees no reason to abandon such successful practices….” Refusal of arbitration is a right under international law which many invoke, denying China this right is “double standard”;
3) China wishes disputes to be settled through bilateral negotiations … “Forcing the arbitration is not conducive to the settlement … “;
4) China’s Basic Position on the South China Sea issue… “the Chinese side has always adhered to resolving relevant disputes with sovereign states directly concerned…. through consultations and negotiations. … and conforms to the consensus that China and ASEAN countries reached in the DOC (Declaration of Conduct)… “;
5) On “The Nature of China-Philippines Disputes… China…. was the first to discover, name, develop and operate on the Nansha Islands….exercised… sovereign jurisdiction….Philippines’ territory was determined by a series of international treaties,… (that) state that the border line of… .the Philippines is 118° East in longitude.… Nansha … and the Huangyan… do not lie within…”
Distance Is Not Relevant
“Some people believe that these islands and reefs are closer to the Philippines, and therefore they belong to the Philippines. This has no basis in international law. Geographical proximity has never been a criterion that determines the ownership of territory. Many countries in the world possess territories far away from their mainland or closer to other countries. .…” 6) Focuses on previous “Consensus” reached in agreements between China and the Philippines … the Joint Statement-PRC-RP Consultations on the South China Sea …. in August 1995 …. The Joint Statement between China and the Philippines on the Framework of Bilateral Cooperation… in May 2000… In 2002, China and the ASEAN… signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties…. (DOC),… adhering to negotiations as the mode and not arbitration.
Territories Lost In R.P. Maps
The 7th, on the Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal) issue, the paper states “The Philippines once clearly stated that the island is not within its territory. First, a series of international treaties defining the domain of the Philippine territory provide that the Huangyan Island is outside the territory of the Philippines. The then Philippine ambassador to Germany explicitly stated in 1990 in his letter to German radio amateurs that the Huangyan Island is not within the territory of the Philippines. The documents issued in 1994 by the Philippine National Mapping and Resources Authority …. all confirmed …. The Philippine official map issued in 2011 also marked the Huangyan Island outside the Philippine territorial border limits.”
The 8th point on “The Issue of Ren’ai Reef (Second Thomas Shoal)” recalls the commitments of previous Philippine government administrations to “tow away” the stranded Philippine navy derelict there. But the DFA, China states, “on March 14 openly stated the vessel ‘grounded’ 15 years ago was actually meant to occupy the reef, which proves that the Philippine side has been lying for 15 years….The sitting Philippine government was not the one 15 years ago, but as a country, the Philippines is obliged to honor its commitment. A public denial …. will make it lose credibility to the international community.” The 9th point, “Freedom and Safety of Navigation”, states that the “…South China Sea is the main sealane for China’s trade and transportation .… actions taken by China in safeguarding its sovereignty and maritime interests …. do not affect other countries’ freedom of navigation and overflight….”
South China Sea Peace
The paper ends with a Commitment of China to “a South China Sea of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation”, highlighting a measure it proposes to the harmonious climate over the shared waters: China setting up US $ 500-Million maritime cooperation fund to promote maritime cooperation, science, navigation, safety, connectivity, and combating transnational crime; and establishment of a maritime emergency hotline. It concludes: “So long as all parties earnestly implement relevant consensus, adhere to consultations and negotiations, promote practical maritime cooperation and joint development, the South China Sea will become a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation. “
The winds of change in the China-Philippines relations seem to be rallying on change not only in theory but in reality. The surest sign of this was revealed in the April 2 AIM forum “Understanding 21st Century China: All Under Heaven?” sponsored by such big-named institutions as Asia Society, Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association of the Philippines, Tufts Fletcher School Alumni Association-Philippines, the hangers-on Ramos Peace and Development Foundation Inc. (where did FVR get the money?), and Former Senior Government Officials (hangers-on to hangers-on-governments dragged along by Uncle Sam). Three speakers highlighted the forum: Prof. Marwyn Samuels of Syracuse University ; Dr. Liping Zheng of the Asian Development Bank; and Chito Sta. Romana , the fountainhead of wisdom on China for Filipinos.
Public reactions at the forum were emailed to us by Internet journalist Jerry Quibilan: from Alex to Jerry : “I noticed something very different from the forum today compared to the forum of anti-China activist Raffy Alunan, Roilo Golez and President Ramos also at the AIM in December … They got ex-commodores and ex-commanders of the US 7th Fleet to tell us Filipinos we have to prepare for war with China and shed our blood …We got videos on recycled airplanes and ships to buy for the coming war with China… videos on the Korean war where 10,000 Filipinos allegedly killed 40,000 Chinese. Today President Ramos laughed at the Philippines’ decision to buy 12 new jet planes …. That shook me up. My impression is that Raffy Alunan and President Ramos have noticeably lost their belligerence … They were as nice to China as apple pie. Both said Filipinos should try to understand China and restore normal relations soonest. I am quite puzzled to say the least.”
I suggested an answer to Puzzled Alex: The P20-billion deal to buy the used FA-50 from South Korea has already been signed and sealed; and so the syndicate can now relax the propaganda scare-mongering. Then came this quip from one reactor in the forum, Wilson Lee Flores: “We were colonized four times–the Spanish, the British, the Americans, and the Japanese … Filipinos were killed and …. plundered. On the other hand, what have the Chinese done in over a thousand years here? They just traded and gave us siopao, siomai, mami, and lomi.”
(Tune in to “Sulo ng Pilipino” on 1098 AM, dwAD, Tuesday to Friday, 5 p.m.; catch GNN’s Talk News TV with HTL on Destiny Cable Channel 8, SkyCable Channel 213, and http://www.gnntv-asia.com, Saturday, 8:00 p.m. and replay Sunday, 8 a.m., this week on “Meralco siphoning capital out of the country” with Butch Junia and “Consumer protection groups: Unite!”; visit http://newsulongpilipino.blogspot.com; text your reactions to 0917-8658664)
Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto F. Del Rosario exchanged notes for three (3) Grant Aid Projects amounting to 6.917 billion yen (approximately 3.041 billion pesos) on March 20/24, 2014 at the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines.
The signed projects focus on rehabilitation and improvement in the fields of infrastructure and communications.
Programme for Rehabilitation and Recovery from Typhoon Yolanda
In the summit meeting with President Aquino last December, Japanese Prime Minister Abe stated that Japan would continue to extend support in the recovery and reconstruction phase. This project amounting to 4.6 billion yen (approximately 2.02 billion pesos) will provide Japan’s reliable disaster-resilient technology and urban planning in the rehabilitation of public infrastructure in Leyte and Samar in order to further the recovery of the people and communities severely affected by Typhoon Yolanda. Through this programme, Japan helps the Philippines to build a resilient society against natural disasters and achieve sustainable growth.
Project for Enhancement of Communications Systems
This project amounting to 1.152 billion yen (approximately 506.5 million pesos) will provide the installation of the VSAT Communication System and the INMARSAT Communication System in the headquarters of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and its district offices and vessels as well as the establishment of the Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) in Cebu’s Mactan Channel. This project aims to improve the communications capabilities of the PCG and enhance the safety, search and rescue activities in the Philippines.
Project for Improvement of Water Supply System in Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD)
This project amounting to 1.165 billion yen (approximately 512.2 million pesos) will involve the installation of flow meters, pressure meters, and water quality sensors that will be monitored using the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA). SCADA will ensure the efficient and effective water supply management of the MCWD within Metropolitan Cebu.
Owing to the disasters of last year and the relentless efforts of the Government of the Philippines to propel the Philippines toward progress, the Government of Japan sincerely extends its support to a friend in need. Japan believes that these projects will signify its unflagging commitment to the “Strategic Partnership” between the two countries and continue to strengthen the friendship between the peoples of Japan and the Philippines.
By Dong Maraya
Australia and the Philippines have a long history of bilateral cooperation. Diplomatic relations were established when Australia opened a Consulate-General in Manila on 22 May 1946. An Australian Ambassador to the Philippines was appointed in 1957. The Philippines opened an Embassy in Canberra in 1962. Today the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines is Bill“Ranrat” Tweddell.
Mr. Bill Tweddell is Australia’s top diplomat in the Philippines. In a formal address, the titles that precede his name are EXCELLENCY, Mr. Ambassador, Consul General, and Deputy High Commissioner. But he also carries a unique tag very close to his heart: Ranrat. That’s how his two-year-old granddaughter Eva calls him. “She can’t say Granddad so she calls me Ranrat,” Bill said. Eva is Bill’s first grandchild and, practically, the first little girl that entered his life.
Bill and his wife Chris have two adult sons, Andrew and Paul, and another grandson on the way.
“But now I have a granddaughter, so finally I’ve got the little girl that I didn’t have,” Bill said.
Eva lives in Sydney. “Eva loves the water,” Bill said, acknowledging that he is never happier than when near the sea. A quintessential Australian, Bill is quite outdoorsy. He and his best friend Garth had a shared passion for rugby. But he hadn’t been the stereotype of a high-school tough jock, even in youth.
The domestic environment he grew up in while living in rural Queensland was one of mutual respect, and a very nurturing one at that. It was also filled with very strong women and unconditional family support. His mother, a kindergarten teacher by training who ended up training handicapped children and adults, was “not so quiet.” His older sister, a scientist, was also not quiet. His younger sister, an education specialist, was as opinionated. With that upbringing, it isn’t surprising that Bill ended up marrying a lady of the same mettle.
Bill and Chris met at James Cook University, from which he earned his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Economics degrees. Bill and Chris married when he was 22 and she was turning 21. What is vivid in Bill’s memory is that a cyclone was brewing as he followed Chris’s family as they were vacationing along the Sunshine Coast. Defying the wind and rain, Bill traveled partly by car and partly by train just to get to Chris.
Bill’s would-be father-in-law gave his blessings but admitted that he hoped Chris would get to travel first before settling down. Chris is a CPA who gets work when she can, even when accompanying Bill to postings in Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Greece and Bangladesh. During Bill’s posting as Deputy High Commissioner in India, she even had a chance to connect with Everest conquerors Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary on different occasions.
Australia and the Philippines cooperate closely in a broad range of areas, including defense, counter-terrorism, law enforcement and development. Australia has the following regular bilateral meetings with the Philippines: a Foreign and Trade Ministers’ meeting (the Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting, or ‘PAMM’) and associated PAMM business dialogue and senior officials’ meeting; counter-terrorism consultations; annual joint defense cooperation consultations; a joint working group on mining; an agriculture forum; a climate change dialogue; and a strategic dialogue.
The two countries share common perspectives on many regional, economic and security issues. Australia and the Philippines share a common interest in cooperating in regional affairs through forums such as the East Asia Summit (EAS), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum. Both Australia and the Philippines are active members of the Cairns Group, a coalition of 19 agricultural exporting countries. The two countries have also signaled their common interest in combating transnational challenges such as climate change.
The Philippines is the third most vulnerable country to natural disasters and the sixth most vulnerable to climate change. When earthquakes, volcanoes and severe typhoons occur, the poor are worst affected. Australia is one of the first countries to respond when typhoons affect millions of Filipino people. The Australian government is also partnering with the Philippine government in long term programs to ensure communities are better prepared for natural disasters.The countryhelps in strengthening climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in the Philippines. Through the support of their government as well, state-of-the-art multi-hazard and vulnerability maps in 14 provinces will be generated.
Australia is a wealthy country with a market economy, a relatively high GDP per capita, and a relatively low rate of poverty. In terms of average wealth, this country ranked second in the world after Switzerland in 2013. Australia has among the highest house prices and some of the highest household-debt levels in the world.
The Australian government provides aid where it knows it can make a difference. By targeting and aligning aid programs with the development goals of the Philippine Government and focusing on poverty reduction, Australian aid is making a difference in the lives of Filipinos living in poverty.
The country popularly known as ‘Down Under’ is one of the largest grant aid donors to the Philippines. The current Australia-Philippines Country Strategy (2012-2017) aligns with the key reform agenda to tackle poor governance and reduce poverty. Australia’s development assistance in the Philippines is focused on education, local government service delivery, disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, peace building and good governance.
Australia and the Philippines have growing people-to-people links through trade, investment, cultural exchange, tourism and migration. Significant numbers of Filipinos immigrated to Australia between the 1960s and the 1990s, and Filipinos remain one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Australia. At the 2006 Census, 160,000 Australians claimed Filipino ancestry, up from 129,000 in 2001.
The Australia-Philippines Development Cooperation Program Statement ofCommitment reflects the intention of the Governments to work together to address some of the key issues that keep people poor and make others vulnerable to falling into poverty. The goal of the Australia – Philippines development cooperation program is to assist the poor and vulnerable to take advantage of the opportunities that can arise from a more prosperous, stable and resilient Philippines.
Australia is providing up to $30 million to support the Philippine Government’s Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) reform agenda by investing in infrastructure development, including in- classroom construction, health services and transport. Investment in these areas is critical to fostering sustainable growth in the Philippines. Australia is supporting more than 10 national and local governments by providing government employees with a variety of short term training, together with Australia Awards Scholarships for study in Australia. By 2015, at least 600 Filipinos will have undergone postgraduate study in Australia.
Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. Del Rosario exchanged notes for the “Non-Project Grant Aid (Next-Generation Vehicle Package)” amounting to 500 million yen (approximately 215 million pesos) on March12, 2014.
The “Non-Project Grant Aid (Next-Generation Vehicle Package)” aims to contribute to the reduction of environmental pollution in the Philippines caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The products to be provided under this project will be decided in accordance with the Philippine Government’s requests. Specifically, the project is intended to provide eco-friendly products that will promote the development of the Philippines through making use of Japanese technology such as hybrid vehicle (HV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), electric vehicle (EV) and clean diesel vehicle (CD).
Projects under the Non-Project Grant Aid (NPGA) seek to assist developing countries in responding to different economic and social needs. The NPGA offers foreign currency funding for importation of goods such as industrial materials that will address a specific concern of a developing country. The objectives of these projects are in line with the concept of “Inclusive Growth” stated in the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, as well as the concept of “Human Security” being advocated by the Japanese Government. Projects such as this serve as a continuing testimony of strategic partnership between Japan and the Philippines.
JULIO Camarena-Villaseñor spent the last 30 years of his life in public service.
A native of Mexico City, he began a distinguished career as an advisor on international affairs to Mexico’s Secretary of Finance, Jesus Silva-Herzog. A former Lawrence University government major—he graduated magna cum laude in 1981—Camarena-Villaseñor is the current Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mexico to the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Camarena-Villasenor was named to the ambassador post by President Enrique Peña Nieto after serving the past six years as Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs for Management in the government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he oversaw 149 offices worldwide, including 75 embassies, 66 consulates and five missions to international organizations as well as a staff of 7,000.
Camarena-Villaseñor also held various leadership posts in the United Nations from 1986-2006, including director of the division of planning and human resources management for the Food and Agriculture Organization in Vienna, Austria, and chief of inter-agency policy and the common system in the Department of Management for the United Nations Secretariat in New York City.
Almost in an unsuspected way, Mexico and the Philippines share a myriad of traditions and customs derived from historical ties established more than 400 years ago.
Our common history dates back to the time when both the Philippines and Mexico were under the Spanish Crown. Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec Empire in 1521, the same year Ferdinand Magellan discovered and claimed for the Spanish Crown the islands which were baptized by the explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos as “Philippines”, in honor of Prince Philip of Spain.
Ruy Lopez set sail from Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico to make the first exploratory travel to these Islands, journey that was totally financed with Mexican money, as the Legazpi exploration.
In 1565, Governor General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi claimed the Philippines as a Spanish Colony and designated Manila as the capital in 1571. Due to its distance from Spain, the Spanish Government assigned Manila’s administration and government to Virreinato de la Nueva España, name of Mexico in colonial times, for two and a half centuries.
For that reason, many of the Philippine Governors were native Mexicans and the army was recruited among the Nueva España population, which resulted in a mix between Mexicans and Filipinos, not only in race, but more importantly in culture. Mexico administered the Philippines up until 1815, when the insurgent movement begun and Spain had to take direct control of the islands.
Evangelization and commercialization constituted the core of intercontinental ties between Asia and America that materialized with the Manila-Acapulco Galleon. Trade between Canton and Acapulco took place through Manila, where the Chinese junks unloaded silks and porcelains to be loaded in the Nao and sent to Spain trough Nueva España, in exchange for Mexican silver. That exchange of goods became also an exchange of ideas and customs.
The “China galleons” greatly stimulated spatial interactions between Acapulco and Manila, 15,000 km away. Many Mexicans settled in Manila and scores of Nahuatl words entered Tagalog, the main Filipino language. These included atole, avocado, balsa, cacao, calabaza, camote, chico, chocolate, coyote, nana(y), tata(y), tocayo and zapote.
As well as vocabulary, some aspects of Mexican cuisine, customs and dress were also introduced to the Philippines, along with a variety of plants and flowers. In addition, the Filipino currency has the same name as Mexico’s: the peso.
Meanwhile, Filipinos settling in Mexico introduced mangoes and a game called “cara y cruz” (heads and tails). The settlers were known locally as “Chinese Indians” and brought their expertise in the cultivation and use of palm trees with them.
In Tagalog, palm fronds are known as “palapa” and by the end of the 18th century, this name was in use, too, for the palm-roofed shelters which remain a distinctive style of architecture along Mexico’s coasts. The coconut palm’s sap is known locally as tuba. Filipino newcomers fermented the resulting coconut wine into a potent drink. Henry Bruman, a University of California geographer, documented how Filipino seamen on the Manila Galleon also introduced simple stills, for making coconut brandy, to western Mexico during the late 16th century. These techniques were quickly adopted by Mexicans who were then able to turn the hearts of their native agave plants into tequila.
After the colonial period, the first official contacts of Independent Mexico with the Philippines were established in 1842, when a Mexican Representation was opened in Manila. However, the most recent reference to a Mexican Diplomat in the Philippines appeared with the designation of Evaristo Butler Hernandez as Consul of Mexico in the Philippines in 1878.
In 1935, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Emilio Portes Gil, appointed pilot and painter Alfredo Carmelo y de las Casas as Honorary Consul of Mexico in the Philippines, position that he held until 1945.
During Second World War, another notable Mexican event in the Philippines was the presence of Squadron 201. Mexico participated in the Pacific war against the Japanese with a contingent of the Mexican Air Force, which arrived in Manila on April 30, 1945, under the command of Colonel Antonio Cardenas Rodriguez.
The Independence of the Philippines brought forth a new era of relations between these countries. Mexico dispatched an envoy to participate in the festivities to celebrate the birth of the Southeast Asian nation. Diplomatic ties between both countries were formalized on April 14 of 1953 and it was only on September 17 of the same year when the first Diplomatic Mission of Mexico in Manila opened its doors with Carlos Gutierrez Macias as Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. On July 25, 1961, the Mission became an Embassy.
During the presidency of Diosdado Macapagal, Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos made a State Visit to the Philippines from October 20th to 23rd of 1962 in response to the visit of Macapagal in 1960, who was Vice President at the time. 1964 was decreed the “Year of Philippine-Mexican Friendship” to celebrate the Fourth Centennial of the Expedition of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
Mexico was the first Latin American country that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited as President of the Philippines on November 21st of 2001, when she attended the international conference of Christian Democratic Parties, also attended by Mexican President Vicente Fox. In October of 2002, she visited Mexican soil again to participate in the 10th APEC Leaders Meeting in La Paz, Baja California.
As a result of the collaboration/working relationship and affinity between our nations, Mexico and the Philippines today enjoy a strong economic partnership, with enormous potential for growth. Mexico is the Philippines’ third largest importer in the Americas, after the United States and Canada, and is the seventh largest exporter to the Philippines, exporting products such as manufactured goods, chemicals and sugar.
To date, Mexico and the Philippines have signed some 21 bilateral agreements including the following: Bilateral Agreement on Air Transport, signed in Washington in 1952; Cultural Agreement, signed in Mexico in 1969; Agreement on Technical-Scientific Cooperation for Agriculture, signed in 1994; Agreement on Cooperation for Tourism, signed in 1995; Agreement on the Suppression of Non Ordinary Visas, signed in Mexico in 1997; Agreement on the Cooperation for the Fight against Illegal Trafficking and Abuse of Drugs signed in 1997; Memorandum of Agreement for Academic Cooperation between the Department of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and the Philippines, signed in 1997.
During a state visit to Mexico in 2012, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario, representing the Philippine government, signed two bilateral agreements with Mexico. These include the establishment of a Joint Bilateral Consultation Meeting and providing for an exchange of information, training modules and scholars for diplomatic training.
In addition, we must also not overlook the importance of bilateral investment that exists between our nations. For example, the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), the leading port operator in the Philippines, has significantly invested in the Port of Manzanillo in Colima. Conversely, Mexican companies, such as CEMEX and FEMSA, have a major presence here in the Philippines. Today, our business relationship can — and must — grow, especially given that our two countries are part of the dynamic and increasingly competitive Pacific Basin.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that the Philippines will host the APEC summit in 2015. This conference will be an additional opportunity to propose and discuss strategies aimed at forging closer ties between our countries. The overriding objective of the summit is to better coordinate policies in order to face, as partners, the challenges and opportunities that arise in the international economic arena. In addition, the Philippine government also has plans to open the National Galleon Museum and Research Center in 2015, making the forum a very symbolic occasion to renew and strengthen our ties, as well as adopt new agreements.
The historic commercial and cultural links between the two countries bode well for the future of Mexican and Filipino relations, a renewed, dynamic partnership marked by its strength and intercontinental importance. In the short term, I will work with my counterpart here in the Philippines so that our respective countries serve as a bridge between Asia and Latin America.
AMBASSADOR Gijsbert Anton Boon von Ochssee—The Netherlands ambassador to the Philippines—believes Manila is ready for business with the European Union. “International business is..where the Philippines belongs,” von Ochssee told reporters during a trade conference in Cebu last month. Von Ochssée said that among the areas of cooperation that can be discussed between the EU and the Philippines includes the economy, environment and social approaches, which are important to the business community.
“If you look at the Philippines by its growing population (and) growing business, you have to be more mindful about the environment, more mindful about the social aspects,” von Ochssée said. Dutch firms, in particular, have also expressed keen interest in taking advantage of the collaboration opportunities with local companies, specifically in the fields of energy, agriculture, water, and water management. The Netherlands and the Philippines can boost knowledge and technology exchange to expand partnership, von Ochssée added.
The Philippine government has been pursuing efforts that would allow it to strategically position itself to further boost trade and investments with Europe. These efforts include moves to start negotiating for free trade agreements with the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and to apply for qualification under the European Union’s new Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) scheme or GSP+.
Data from the EU showed that EU-Philippines trade declined by 4 percent to 9.9 billion euros in 2012, due partly to global slowdown in the electronics sector. At 9.9 billion euros, however, EU-Philippines trade is nearly back to its pre-crisis level in 2007, according to the EU. In terms of bilateral trade in 2012 between the 27 EU member states with the Philippines, three out of the Philippines’ six main EU trade partners (namely Germany, Netherlands, France, UK, Italy and Belgium) registered trade surpluses, while 17 registered trade deficits.
In terms of foreign direct investments, the EU remains the largest investment partner of the Philippines with its total stock of investments rising further to 7.6 billion euros as of end-2011. The EU is also the fifth largest host of land-based migrant Filipinos and remains the largest employer of Filipino seafarers. Filipino migrants living and working in the EU as well as Filipino seafarers manning European ships, together sent US$2.8 billion (2 billion EUR) to the Philippines in 2012, making the EU the second largest source of remittances to the Philippines.
Also, the EU remained the fifth largest source of tourists to the Philippines in 2012, with the number of EU tourists reaching a record 349,000 and an increase of 10 percent in 2012, EU data further showed.
Trade and Investments Relations
The Netherlands has always been an important trading partner for the Philippines since formal relations were established between the two countries in 1958. In 2011, the Netherlands continued to be the top EU export market for the Philippines accounting for 3.6% of total exports (US$1.7 billion). Main exports include electronics and semiconductors, processed food, animal and vegetable fats, and clothing.
The Netherlands is also a consistent top source of the Philippines’ foreign direct investment (FDI). During the last 15 years, the Netherlands has been the third largest foreign investor to the Philippines (after Japan and US). Also, to date there are at least 130 Dutch companies established and represented in the Philippines.
Transport and Logistics
The Netherlands and the Philippines have strong and long-standing bilateral relations and economic cooperation in the maritime sector. The Philippines, crewing capital of the world, is the primary source of seafarers for the Dutch fleet (currently employing more than 10.000 Filipino seafarers).
In the framework of international agreements on maritime cooperation, a bilateral treaty between the Netherlands and the Philippines on the recognition of seafarers certificates, both governments annually hold the Joint Committee on Maritime Affairs (JCMA). Furthermore, the joint venture between the Royal Association of Netherlands Ship-owners (KVNR), the Shipping and Transport College in Rotterdam (STC) and the Palompon Institute of Technology (PIT wherein the KVNR provides the nautical academy support in terms of maritime training programs (officer level).
In terms of logistics, opportunities have been identified in upcoming projects relating to the bulk handling and logistics support facilities for agri-food commodities and fisheries products. The Philippines is also developing airport facilities to be a international gateway in terms of air shipping-cargoes with domestic and international flights. The Philippines’ strategic location makes it an ideal hub for logistic service providers in Asia as capital cities in Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia are all reachable within four hours by plane from Manila.
Agriculture and Food
During the trade and investments seminar conducted in The Hague, The Netherlands last September, Filipino economists and business leaders led by Antonio Villegas and Alaska Milk CEO Wilfred Uytengsu, Jr. encouraged Dutch businessmen to take advantage of business opportunities in the Philippines in the food and agriculture sector. The agri-business sector (agro-processing and agricultural inputs manufacturing and trading) remains a leading sector in the Philippines and continues to be an important source for the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.
The Netherlands is also the Philippines’ largest market of crude and refined coconut oil as well as the 4th largest market for pineapple and pineapple products. Exports from the Netherlands to the Philippines consist of meat and poultry products, agricultural inputs (i.e. veterinary and animal health products), animal feeds and other food products (processed food, fruits and vegetables, dairy). With food-security being an issue and growing demands of the domestic agri-business sector, the Embassy will focus on niche opportunities for Dutch companies.
Presently, there are about 70 Netherlands-based agricultural companies with representative offices in the Philippines.
While some engage primarily in wholesale or retail of agricultural goods, some companies have expanded to offering added value services such as technology transfer activities in the areas of livestock artificial insemination, plant and/or seedling development and dairy farming.
To further promote and strengthen economic relations, the following Dutch trade instruments are also offered in the Philippines:
Matchmaking Facility (MMF) – The MMF assists local businesses particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries to establish joint business relations (investment, trade or knowledge transfer) with Dutch companies. Application for MMF should be made and submitted by the local company to the Netherlands Embassy for initial evaluation.
Private Sector Investment Programme (PSI) – PSI programme supports innovative investments in emerging markets to stimulate private sector development, create employment opportunities and contribute to economic growth. Investments and application need to be done by Dutch companies in cooperation with a local partner. The Facility for Infrastructure Development (ORIO) – ORIO is a grant facility intended to contribute to the development, implementation, operation and maintenance of public infrastructure in developing countries. Applications should be made by the central government, local governments or public enterprises and submitted through the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
The Sustainable Water Fund (FDW) – is a Public Private Partnership facility which aims to finance projects in the area of water safety and water security. The projects should lead to poverty alleviation, sustainable economic growth and self-reliance.
The Philippines also benefits from the services and expertise of the following Dutch trade support organizations: Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) – CBI assists local companies in exploring export opportunities in the Netherlands and Europe.
CBI sends technical consultants to the Philippines to provide training to small and medium business enterprises. The Philippines Exporters Confederation Inc. or Philexport is the local partner of CBI in the Philippines. Senior Experts Programme (PUM) – sends experienced Dutch senior managers to the Philippines to provide on-site advice on sales and marketing, administration, capacity building among others to entrepreneurs in developing countries. PUM representative offices are located in Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Davao.
After super typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas, The Netherlands was also one of the first countries to come to the aid of the Philippines. Dutch Humanitarian NGOs were able to collect a total Php1.5 billion (25 million EUR) for Yolanda victims in the Philippines–in addition to Dutch government contribution of Php350 million (6 million EUR). A national action for public fundraising for humanitarian assistance to the Philippines has resulted in a contribution of 25 million EUR. From early morning until midnight all Dutch broadcasting companies have cooperated to inform the public about the catastrophe that was caused by Typhoon Yolanda and to call for funds.
Dutch citizens have donated en masse for the victims of Yolanda. Through events and activities involving national politicians, DJ’s, singers, actors, TV personalities, sportsmen, artists and others, as well as hundreds of volunteers, funds have been raised by the Cooperating Aid Agencies (SHO). SHO is a partnership of Dutch aid organizations that collectively raise funds for aid to the victims of major humanitarian disasters.