As the British Minister in charge of relations with the Philippines, I was pleased to be my first visit to Manila this week. I have met some of the leading figures in government, business and other fields, and I was delighted to take my part in building the broad and ever-expanding area in which the two countries work together. I’m sorry I couldn’t go out and see the country because of COVID-19 and I couldn’t meet as many people as I wanted.
Our country is almost 11,000 km away, but enjoys a close and long link. However, we have never settled on a laurel wreath and have always been trying to do more together.
We are pleased to see the strengthened partnership begin next year, marking the 75th anniversary of our official diplomatic relations. This allows us to continue to drive trade relations based on already strong 2 billion bilateral trade and investment and grow more than 200 UK companies currently active in the Philippines such as Shell, AstraZeneca, GSK and Diageo.
With the UK hosting COP26 next year and having heads of state, climate experts and activists working together to agree on action, we can strengthen strong cooperation to tackle climate change. The UK is already working with the Philippines in areas such as low carbon energy transition and protecting the Philippines’ amazing biodiversity.
We can strengthen our connections to defense, security and counter-terrorism, protect our citizens, and strengthen consular cooperation to help them live a better life when away from home.
In fact, the relationship between the two countries cannot be ours without a close connection between our people. This includes the 20,000 British citizens who made the Philippines their hometown. This includes 200,000 Filipinos who settled in England. This can personally prove that they are respected for compassion, dedication and professional excellence, including about 30,000 people who have chosen to work in the UK’s National Institutes of Health.
It was interesting to discuss our plans for the future this week. The visit also allowed us to spend time discussing key political issues related to the lives of our citizens, including human rights. And I have been able to take steps to expand the already strong bilateral cooperation on higher education by signing a statement of commitment that will help Filipino learners widen their opportunities for quality higher education and help build the competitiveness of Philippine higher education institutions. .
I know the Philippines has already faced a huge challenge this typhoon season. I was sad to see the dire effects of Typhoons Quintas, Rolly, and Ulysses in a rapid succession in recent days and continued to be inspired by the patience of the Filipino people. We were pleased that the UK could donate 500,000 (PHP 32 million) through its Red Cross partners to support those in need of the greatest humanitarian aid right after Typhoon Raleigh.
Likewise, we must continue to work together to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to affect our daily lives. I am proud of the efforts our country has made to ensure that all countries and people around the world have access to safe and effective vaccines when they are ready. Progress is progressing rapidly. While in Manila, I discussed state-of-the-art partnerships with the Philippines on global access to vaccines, and learned how the UK’s public health partnership and support program will impact.
Along with strengthening partnerships with the Philippines, the UK has a deep and lasting relationship with countries in the ASEAN region and is committed to strengthening its relationship with ASEAN. We want to solidify our commitment to ASEAN by becoming a Dialogue Partner. We believe that this position reflects the strength and breadth of the UK offer now and in the future. Thank you for your warm support from the Philippines for this ambition.
Our country may indeed be an old friend, but I am confident that we are ready to embrace new horizons in our relationship.
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