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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Philippines and Spain Boost Trade and Security Ties

 President Aquino yesterday wrapped up his two-day visit here with the two countries vowing to bolster trade and development ties, fight transnational crime, as well as explore a possible air transportation pact. President Aquino also sought Spain’s support to the country’s position in the territorial dispute with China.
After Spain, the President was scheduled to proceed to Brussels, Belgium, Monday afternoon for a three-day visit. This is the second leg of his grueling four-nation swing in Europe to enhance the Philippines’ ties with these countries. His next stopovers will be France and Germany.
Before flying to Brussels, the President held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the Palacio de la Moncloa where they discussed how to enhance diplomatic, trade, and security between the two nations.
Other issues tackled by the two leaders were the Bangsamoro peace agreement, Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“I look forward to closer cooperation between our countries with the signing of the extension of our bilateral development partnership until 2017,” Coloma said quoting the President.
“We greatly appreciate being the only priority country in Asia under the Master Plan of Spanish Cooperation in 2013-2016,” the President added.
In the meeting, the President highlighted the Philippine economic growth of 7.2 percent in 2013 and 6 percent in the first half of 2014 despite the uncertain global environment and the impact of disasters. He noted that the country aims to grow by 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent in 2014. “I am happy to note the positive economic news in Spain. I hope that the economic gains in both our countries would translate into increased bilateral trade and investments,” the President said.

On security cooperation, Coloma said the President noted the milestone cooperation agreement between the Philippines and Spain to fight transnational crime, which was initialed in Manila last March.
“With the security challenges that our countries face these days, such a partnership proves crucial to our law enforcement agencies in protecting our citizens from transnational threats,” Aquino said.
Coloma said the President welcomed the efforts to finalize an Air Transport Agreement that could lead to direct flights between Manila and Madrid soon.
The President also brought up with Rajoy the government’s “triple action plan” (TAP) that calls for a cessation of provocative actions in the disputed South China Sea as well as the resolution through international arbitration.
“The President expressed to the Prime Minister the Philippines’ concern over the increasing pattern of aggressive Chinese behavior in the region, such as the reclamation activities in Johnson Reef, McKennan and Hughes Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Gaven Reef, the continued presence of Chinese vessels in our Exclusive Economic Zone, and the continued harassment of fishermen of Claimant States,” Coloma said.
In the same meeting, President Aquino also told Rajoy that the Philippines is determined to eliminate illegal fishing and improve maritime education schools in the hopes of persuading the European Union against imposing a ban on fish imports and Filipino seafarers.
“The President affirmed to the European Council the Philippines’ commitment to eradicate illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” Coloma said.
“He said, ‘We are now working toward legal and administrative reforms to address the European Union’s concerns on the regulation of the Philippines’ fishery sector,’” Coloma added.
The EU had earlier threatened that the Philippines may face an import ban if it does not curb illegal fishing.

After his meeting with Rajoy, the President had an audience with King Felipe IV of Spain at the Palacio de la Zarduela.  Among the topics tackled were cultural, development, and economic cooperation with Spain.
This was the President’s last engagement in Spain before flying to Belgium at 11:40 a.m. Monday (5:40 p.m. Manila time).
The Philippines was once a Spanish colony with more than a 300-year history dating back to the 16th century. Diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Spain were formally established on September 27, 1947.
In 2013, Spain was the Philippines’ 27th trading partner, 30th export market and 25th import source out of 218 countries.
Bilateral trade between Spain and the Philippines reached US$469.82 million. Exports to Spain jumped by 40.44 percent from US$109.33 million in 2012 to US$153.55 million in 2013.Among the Philippine export products to Spain are tunas, coconut oil, seaweed, canned pineapple and tobacco.
The Philippines is also considered a priority country in Asia in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA). As of 2013, total ODA of Spain amounted US$63.298 million and eight grants amounting to US$23.17 million.

In Brussels, the President is scheduled to have an audience with King Philippe on Monday regarding Belgium’s assistance with post-Haiyan rehabilitation and Philippine-Belgium historical relations.
Separate meetings will be held with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, and European Council president Herman Von Rompuy on Philippine-EU cooperation and bilateral relations.
At 6:30 p.m. (12:30 a.m. Manila time), the President will address the Filipino community in Belgium and Luxembourg at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. There are an estimated 6,583 Filipinos in Belgium and 436 Filipinos in Luxembourg, and 68 registered Filipino community organizations.

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