[Photo by Kim Jae-hoon]
The Philippines, the fifth country to recognize South Korea as a sovereign state in 1949 and backed the country fight against communist North, now looks to Korean resources and technology to turn smart, clean, and digitally efficient, said Raul Hernandez, Philippine Ambassador to Korea.
The New Southern Policy under President Moon Jae-in to elevate the country’s relations with The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can push the relationship between Korea and the Philippines to a new level, said the envoy who has been in Seoul for five years.
“We expect that there will be dramatic improvement in the cooperative relationship between Korea and the Philippines as the New Southern Policy seeks to step up South Korea’s collaboration with ASEAN in areas including economics and business,” Hernandez said, in a recent interview with Maeil Business Newspaper. “One of the ways this can be achieved is through further trade liberalization through the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement [AKFTA] as well as the finalization of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP].”
Hernandez, in particular, hoped that a free trade agreement (FTA) between Seoul and Manila would further enhance bilateral ties, especially as the two countries celebrate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relationship this year. The ambassador noted his country hopes to pursue “enhanced collaborative linkages” with Korea in areas of infrastructure and transportation, science, technology, and innovation, agriculture and fisheries, climate change response and mitigation, and development of micro, small, and medium enterprises.
Bilateral relationship and cooperation have expanded to high-tech and soft front in line with changes of times.
“Through the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) of Korea, we are currently cooperating on tool and die development and on vehicle modernization which includes e-vehicles. Through the ASEAN-Korea Centre, we are involved in activities to promote infrastructure projects, game development, food and furniture.,” he said.
“With Korea`s experience and advance technology and the Philippines’ economic growth rate, there is opportunity for collaboration in the development of smart cities, establishment of efficient and clean energy sources and construction of eco-industrial parks. These will all require a combination of energy, environment and technology.
Korea and the Philippines entered into bilateral relations on March 3, 1949, and ties were further cemented after the Southeast Asian country deployed the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea during the Korean War in the 1950s. Korea also offered aid to the Philippines to help the country recover from Typhoon Haiyan that hit the land in 2013.
The Philippines is the first ASEAN member country that Korea has entered into formal diplomatic relations. It is one of the ASEAN countries, along with Vietnam and Indonesia, that Korea has been paying keen attention to. The three countries, taking their first letters, are often referred to as so-called “VIP” of ASEAN.
Last month, Korea and the Philippines agreed to conclude a bilateral FTA by November, this year, and are currently engaged in related talks. Bilateral trade between Korea and the Philippines almost doubled from $7.3 billion in 2014 to $14.5 billion last year. Hernandez hoped that bilateral FTA would help boost trade between the two countries and develop balanced trade relations.
Hernandez noted opportunity for collaboration in the development of smart cities, establishment of efficient and clean energy sources, and construction of eco-industrial parks.
When it comes to infrastructure investment, although there is no institutional system such as minimum revenue guarantee (MRG) in the Philippines, Hernandez said “a number of foreign as well as local companies have been actively participating” in projects because they are “convinced of the potential of the Philippines.” He advised that Korean companies start by partnering with a credible and experienced local partner.
In the manufacturing sector, Hernandez said that the two countries are currently cooperating on tool and die development and on vehicle modernization which includes electric vehicles.
[Photo by Kim Jae-hoon]
“Another area for cooperation would be on small and medium-sized enterprises development which could include collaboration on certain sectors that are SME heavy like food processing, creative digital services, cosmetics, arts and crafts, and fashion accessories,” the ambassador said.
Hernandez also emphasized the importance of cooperation in defense and security.
“On defense and security, it is undeniable that the security of Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia are inextricably interlinked,” he said. “Security threats, such as acts of terrorism, cyber-attacks, and large-scale disasters, are pressing issues in the greater Asian region. This reality prompts our military forces to have effective capabilities and readiness posture, buoyed by coordination with the international community.”
The ambassador also expected the special Korea-ASEAN summit, taking place in Busan in November, to allow more progress in discussions between the leaders of Korea and the Philippines such as on increasing trade through FTA, enhancing defense partnership, and boosting educational and cultural ties.
Hernandez, former priest-turned diplomat, is one of the longest-serving ambassadors to Korea among ASEAN countries. He became ambassador to Korea in 2014, successfully managing two summits for former Filipino President Benigno Aquino and President Rodrigo Duterte during their respective visit to Seoul.
Hernandez noted that after President Duterte visited Korea in June, last year, he was deeply impressed by the Korean government’s warm hospitability and said he felt special friendship between the two countries.
Hernandez hoped the upcoming Korea-ASEAN summit to offer opportunity for Korea and ASEAN countries to upgrade their friendly relations.
By Lim Young-sin and Lee Eun-joo
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]