• Mon. May 20th, 2024

Philippines diplomat discusses trade opportunities with B.C.

Philippines’ foreign affairs secretary gave keynote address during his visit to Vancouver last week

The Philippines’ top diplomat says his country is open to discussions on trade and investment opportunities with B.C. and Canada in several key areas.

The Southeast Asian country “welcomes Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy” and is seeking closer partnerships to ensure a “rule-based international order” in the region, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said during a keynote in Vancouver last Tuesday (May 7).

Manalo told attendees at the event hosted by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada that the Philippines’ goal is to strengthen trade and investment opportunities with both the province and nation.

The event was disrupted multiple times by opponents protesting President Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos’ government and the Indo-Pacific strategy.

“For trade and investment, this is part of our overall approach – trying to find and build on areas aside from traditional areas of trade and investment to find new ones,” said Manalo.

“The Philippines is open to anything or any kind of co-operation in the four sectors: energy, agriculture, digitization and also through improving manufacturing, increasing our bottom line in the supply chains,” said Manalo.

The Philippines is facing energy challenges in the future and is searching for renewable energies, which poses opportunities for partnerships with B.C. and Canada in this area, according to Manalo.

“We know it’s not that easy to shift from traditional to new [energy], so we, in the meantime, still have to focus a lot on our traditional energy sources, which include coal,” he said. 

“But LNG [liquefied natural gas] is another area that we’re exploring. In fact, we’re having talks with countries … and are certainly open to having discussions with Canada or companies here. … [We are] also focusing on other renewable energies such as wind and sun, so it’s a total mix.” 

Manalo said the Philippine government has undertaken some legislative changes for easier investment by foreign companies in renewable energy.

Canada imported a record $2.2 billion worth of products from the Philippines in 2023, representing 0.3 per cent of Canada’s total exports, according to Statistics Canada. Imports from the Philippines were the second highest on record at $1.2 billion, making up 0.2 per cent of Canada’s total imports.

Manalo said his government aims for GDP growth of about 6.5-7.5 per cent this year, after ending 2023 on a high note with a growth rate of 5.6 per cent, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia.

“I find it useful to frame the Philippine foreign policy agenda in the context of our trajectory to become an upper middle-income country very soon,” he said.

He said the Philippines’ GDP is set to reach US$1 trillion by 2033, making it one of the largest emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific. The Philippines is also projected to become the 17th biggest consumer market in the world by 2030.

“We are as invested as Canada, and other friends and partners in making the Indo-Pacific remain as an engine of global growth and a hub for human flourishing,” Manalo said.

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