The Philippines and The Netherlands affirmed their intent to forge stronger bilateral partnership and mapped out areas where the two countries can further collaborate during a webinar commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In his keynote address, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. stated that “the Philippines is committed to re-energizing its relationship with The Netherlands, with emphasis on economic cooperation, and special focus on the agri-food, water and infrastructure; the circular economy; and maritime and healthcare sectors.”
“The Netherlands’ renewed foreign policy interest in the Indo-Pacific region is a positive development, particularly its commitment to sustainable trade and investment relations, to reducing one-sided strategic dependencies, to establish more reliable value chains in the Indo-Pacific region and to provide active support for EU negotiations on free trade agreements with Indo-Pacific countries,” Secretary Locsin added. “We are hopeful that this will further expand business-to-business engagements between the private sectors of our countries.”
The Philippines recently assumed its role as country coordinator of the ASEAN-EU relations up to 2025, and it will give greater significance to bilateral initiatives.
For his part, Secretary General Paul Huijts of The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “the strength of our countries’ economic ties are shown by the fact that the Netherlands is the second biggest EU trading partner of the Philippines and the biggest EU investor in the Philippines, and more recently, sustainability has become a key element for our bilateral cooperation.”
He cited the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Masterplan as a result of the collaboration of Dutch and Filipino experts on sustainability and water management.
Secretary General Huijts also noted the contributions of some 150 Dutch companies operating in the Philippines, adding that “at the same time, the Netherlands have welcomed many Overseas Filipino workers, including some 22,000 Filipino seafarers who sail on Dutch flagged vessels and help keep the global economy moving.”
The Netherlands’ Indo Pacific guidelines and the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy “underscore the growing importance of the Indo Pacific region in which the Philippines is a strategic player,” Secretary General Huijts said. “As a seafaring nation, we take a particular interest in freedom of passage and other topical issues in the region.”
With the theme “Philippines-Netherlands Connections @ 70: Reconstructing History and Forging Ahead,” the first of the two-day of the webinar drew large and diverse audience in both countries, including government officials, business personalities, community members, and students.
Ambassador Karin Mossenlechner, Director for Asia and Pacific in the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs expounded on the Dutch Indo-Pacific Guidelines and the implications of this policy shift for the Philippines. “The Netherlands and the EU are aware that the geopolitical and geo-economic balance of power in the world is shifting. The Indo-Pacific region is increasingly becoming more strategically important for the EU. It is important that The Netherlands and the Philippines, and the countries in the Indo-Pacific, join hands and work together in bringing about a sustainable post-Covid-19 recovery with green growth.”
Philippine Ambassador to The Netherlands J. Eduardo Malaya, Netherlands Ambassador to the Philippines Saskia de Lang, President of the Ateneo de Manila University Rev. Fr. Roberto C. Yap, S.J., and Philippine Foreign Service Institute Director-General Jose A. Cariño also spoke during the program.
In his remarks, Ambassador Malaya cited the opportunities for complementarities between the two sides, notably sharing of knowledge in addressing climate change.
“Both the Philippines and the Netherlands are maritime countries, and perhaps we can learn from the Dutch, most of whose land have been reclaimed from the sea. This knowledge is crucial in these times of rising sea levels and climate change,” said Ambassador Malaya.
Ambassador De Lang stated that “the future of The Netherlands and the Philippines is all about hope—as we are celebrating the 70 years of diplomatic relations, we are celebrating our joint future and we are renewing our bilateral vows.”
Other panelists of the first-day session included Professor Alvin Ang of the Ateneo de Manila University, Mitchel Smolders of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Philippine Consul General, a.h. in Rotterdam Albert Bos; Dr. Mary Ann Sayoc of the Philippine Seed Industry Association; and Richard van der Maden of AgriTerra.
In his reaction during the open forum, Mark Versteden, Strategic Policy Advisor for Asia and Oceania of the NL Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that “the webinar is a good basis to continue discussing where the Philippines and The Netherlands can work together.”
The second-day session “Reconstructing Historical Ties” was held on Nov. 10, and focused on the historical foundations of the relations.
The two-day webinar is hosted by the Embassy of the Philippines in The Hague, in partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Manila, the Ateneo de Manila University and the Philippine Foreign Service Institute.