Samedi 25 Mai 2019  
 

N°101 - Premier trimestre 2013

La lettre diplometque
  Éditorial
Kazakhstan
Lituanie
Libye
Philippines
  Les relations entre les Philippines et la France : vers de nouveaux horizons
 
  Développer les coopérations institutionnelles entre la France et les Philippines
 
  Philippines, Archipel des échanges
 
  « Les Philippines se préparent à jouer un rôle plus important en tant que moteur de l’économie mondiale »
 
  La bonne gouvernance entretient une économie florissante
 
  « Les Philippines, un pays à découvrir »
 
  Les Philippines : Un nouveau « tigre asiatique » ?
 
  L’intérêt de la France pour les Philippines, l’intérêt des Philippines pour la France : par quels moyens y parvenir ?
 
  Les Philippines : un pays aussi en quête de sens
 
Gabon - Diploprofil©
opinion
Coopération internationale
Formation et Enseignement supérieur
 
La lettre diplometque
La lettre diplomatique Haut
     Philippines
 
  S.E.M. / H.E. Albert F. del Rosario

Asia’s New Tiger

Rigour in the fight against corruption, sustained economic growth, search for a lasting peace with the most virulent rebel groups of the Archipelago are some notable successes of the new development strategy of the Philippines. Three years after the election of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Albert F. Del Rosario, shares his thoughts on the achievements of the reformist policies of the Philippine government and on the new impetus given to France-Philippines relations.

The Diplomatic Letter: President Benigno Simeon Aquino III was elected by a large majority on 10 May 2010, on a program of action focused on the fight against corruption and poverty. What assessment can you make on the forms committed in these two areas? 

 

H.E. Albert Del Rosario: The current administration has made significant headway in the campaign to weed out corruption and eradicate poverty. When President Aquino assumed office in 2010, he made good governance the cornerstone of his commitment to the Filipino people, and along with it, the fight against corruption, which is the main impediment to progress and inclusive growth. The current administration has since pursued a sustained effort to bring before the bar of justice those involved in corruption, regardless of the power and influence these officials may wield. 

As regards our socio-economic reform efforts, the Philippines continues to experience significant economic growth, resulting in the easing of economic marginalization at a broad scale. 

At the level of the individual, purchasing power has increased due to better jobs and the improved economic conditions. However, addressing poverty and unemployment cannot be done overnight. For inclusive economic growth to take root, significant levels of investment in education and skills training will have to be made, and on a multi-year basis.

Currently, the Philippines’ Department of Education has started to carry out the K to 12 Program, which aims to improve the quality of basic education. Also, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has intensified its initiatives to train more people.

Similar to combating poverty and unemployment, a strategic approach to tackling corruption also has to be taken, since it will take society time to usher the mainstreaming of honest and effective governance. We shall sustain our anti-corruption campaign and poverty alleviation programs and continue to lay the groundwork for these reforms to be sustained hopefully beyond 2016.

Lastly, concrete steps will continue to be undertaken along the priority areas identified in the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016. These are all consistent with our overarching aim of achieving growth that would result in concrete benefits for the average Filipino.

 

T.D.L: Recalling the legacy of the parents of President Aquino in the struggle for democracy and peace, how do you view the progress made by your country?

 

H.E.A.F.D.R.: The timing could not be better for us to talk about the exciting things happening in our country today - there is a new spirit of dynamism; a strong sense of optimism about the future. As you may know, in May 2010, President Aquino was elected with a considerable margin of victory of 5.7 million votes over the next candidate.

We believe this overwhelming mandate is an appreciation of the contribution made by the protectors of democracy in our country. As you know, President Aquino’s father was the late opposition leader and Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. His martyrdom in 1983 set in motion the events that eventually lead to the 1986 People Power Revolution. President Corazon Aquino, mother of the current President, whom the French called the Philippines’ Jean d’Arc, also led the Filipino nation during the People Power Revolution against a long-entrenched dictatorship and eventually became the country’s 11th and first woman President.   

The current administration has given particular focus on honest and good governance in bringing about meaningful change.

Our efforts are bearing fruit. This is most palpable in the economic front. The country’s GDP grew by 6.6% last year. The Philippine Stock Exchange was 2012’s best performing bourse in Asia, while the country recently achieved investment grade from the Fitch ratings agency.

From 85th in 2010, the Philippines jumped 20 notches to 65th in the 2012 World Economic Forum Global Competitive Survey. Enabled by improved macroeconomic fundamentals, higher levels of public investment in agriculture and infrastructure have been enacted. We have pursued major reforms as well in education and technical skills training, while our wide-scale poverty alleviation and social redistribution programs are gaining steady traction.

As a result of these developments, Filipinos are now more upbeat and optimistic about their prospects for the future. This we have matched with a strong commitment to service in our shared aim of achieving greater heights for the nation.  

 

T.D.L.: Symbol of the current administration’s desire to accelerate the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the President made a historic visit to Camp Darapanan, in the province of Maguindanao, on February 11, 2013. Could you give us the outline of the peace framework agreement concluded in October 2012?  In your opinion, what are the main difficulties that may hamper its implementation? In the light of these accomplishments, what are your expectations on the intensification of dialogue with the NPA (New People’s Army) Communist rebellion?

 

H.E.A.F.D.R.: The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, or the FAB, is a historic agreement, which we earnestly hope will end what has been a very protracted and costly conflict, and finally bring lasting peace and progress in Mindanao.  With the FAB, the MILF will no longer seek to establish a separate state; instead, the Government and the MILF will commit to establish a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, a name that not only honors the struggles of the past, but also celebrates the history and character of Muslim Mindanao. Among others, the Bangsamoro will have competence over Shari’ah courts, and will have the power to create its own sources of revenues. The national government will still exercise exclusive powers on defense and external security, foreign policy, common market and global trade, monetary policy, citizenship and naturalization.

Since the signing of the FAB, four rounds of talks have already been held, and the joint technical working groups are working on the FAB’s four annexes – power sharing, wealth sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements and modalities.  We have also created the Transition Commission, which is the body tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law.  This law will be subject to ratification through a plebiscite, and once approved, elections will be held.  Hopefully, we will have an elected Bangsamoro government when the new administration comes in, in 2016.  

We have no illusions about the hard work ahead.  There are details to be hammered out, promises to be kept, institutions to be fixed, and new capacities to be built; but we have a very important element now that had been missing before, and this is the element of trust between the parties.  Now we are ready and committed to work hand in hand.  We have also been very fortunate to have the strong support of the international community, including the European Union (EU). 

As regards the peace process with the CPP/NPA/NDF, negotiations have already spanned 26 years and four presidencies.  Talks have been derailed by contentious issues like the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, or JASIG.  Nevertheless, we are strongly committed in moving the process forward and we are hopeful that we will be able to reach a final negotiated political settlement soon, particularly in light of the progress we have made with our peace process with the MILF.  

 

T.D.L.: Backed by solid macroeconomic performance, the growth of the Philippine economy has reached a sustained pace of 6.6% in 2012.  While job creation remains your principal objective, what sectors will the current administration be pursuing in the next three years?  In view of increasing the Philippines’ room for maneuver, do you think that a reform of the mining sector is feasible, like what you have recently adopted on taxation?

 

H.E.A.F.D.R.: In line with our pursuit of inclusive economic growth, we seek to encourage potential investors to partner with the government in investing in three priority sectors. First is in agriculture. This sector is the source of income for some 12.1 million Filipinos, and currently accounts for close to 20 percent of the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product. Development in this sector also improves the country’s food security. 

Second is in tourism. We are targeting around 30 million visitors from this year up to 2016. Third is in infrastructure. Infrastructure development will support agriculture and tourism through the improvement of road networks and seaport and airport systems that will in turn ensure the safety and efficient passage of tourists and goods all over the country.

With regard to mining sector reform, the President signed last year Executive Order 79, which aimed to institute critical changes to the existing regulatory framework for the mining sector. We acknowledge the huge benefits to be had from mining, particularly considering the sizeable reserves of the country for minerals such as gold, copper, nickel and chromite, among others. 

However, the benefits from mining should not come at the expense of the natural environment. 

E.O. 79 expanded the areas where mining activities shall be prohibited. These areas include prime agricultural lands, tourism development areas, island ecosystems and national protected areas, which are crucial to the preservation of natural biodiversity. It has likewise limited the kinds of minerals under which small-scale mining could be undertaken in order to address the harmful effects of certain small-scale mining practices.

We wanted to rationalize revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms between government and mineral contractors.  E.O. 79 imposes a moratorium on the approval of new mineral agreements pending the passage and effective implementation of legislation to this effect.

These reforms have been undertaken to ensure that the present and future generations of Filipinos are able to reap the benefits of our rich natural resources. 

 

T.D.L.: As a result of the improvement in economic governance and performance of sectors such as electronics, shipyards or business process outsourcing (BPO), your country is attracting more and more foreign investors. Taking into account the restrictions laid on investments by foreign companies, what initiatives could be implemented to improve the Philippine market’s accessibility? Like geothermal energy, of which your country is the world’s second producer, how do you intend to stimulate the development of its natural resources?

 

H.E.A.F.D.R.: Our emphasis on honest and good governance has improved the business climate in the country, and particularly, confidence among foreign investors. As a result, Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) have been increasing these past few years. In order to capitalize on this wave of interest, we have streamlined the regulatory requirements to improve the ease of doing business in the Philippines.

We are also actively pursuing the removal of the Philippines from “blacklists” of foreign governments or international institutions. For instance, in February of this year, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) conducted an audit of the Philippine civil aviation industry. We hope our removal from ICAO’s list of countries with Significant Safety Concerns (SSCs) will result in: 1.) the country’s return to Category 1 status of its aviation safety system under the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) classification, and 2.) removal from the EU Directorate General for Mobility and Transport’s (DG MOVE) “blacklist”. These developments will, among others, facilitate the entry of more foreign air carriers and encourage more visitors to make the Philippines their holiday destination of choice. 

We have accelerated public sector spending in infrastructure, especially in the construction and operation of road/ highway networks, seaports, airports and mass transit systems. Incidentally, infrastructure development is attracting considerable interest from foreign investors through our Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) program for flagship projects.  

We are currently undertaking the modernization of the Philippine National Police to further improve its capacity for law enforcement. We are also increasing the number of policemen in order for them to be more visible to the public and thus deter crimes.

As regards the second question, we are promoting private sector’s exploration of natural gas in the western region of the country. This should lead to less dependence in imported oil for use by our industrial and power generation sectors.  Another thrust is the development of renewable energy sources. We are in the process of constructing the second wind farm in the Philippines. 

This will be built in the north of the country. The Burgos Wind Farm Project is expected to produce 87 megawatts of electricity; enough to supply the electricity needs of more than a million households. I wish to note that the Philippines is a pioneer in the harnessing of wind power for large-scale power generation in Southeast Asia.

Power generation through biomass technology is yet another priority area. With a sizeable supply of rice hulls and other agricultural by-products, the Philippines stands to benefit from technology that extracts energy out of what were traditionally regarded as waste materials. We thank France for helping the country scale-up this technology. During the visit of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to the Philippines in October 2012, France agreed to fund a study on biomass power generation in central Philippines.  

 

T.D.L.: The Philippines, a founding-member of the Southeast-Asian regional integration process, is actively preparing to join the ASEAN economic community (AEC) which is scheduled to be implemented in 2015. How do you perceive the challenges posed by trade liberalization and, conversely, the benefits this can bring to your country? What measures are planned to strengthen its competitiveness and, more specifically, that of certain sectors such as agriculture? Moreover, what guidelines do you recommend to further regional cooperation in the field of environment and prevention of natural disasters?

H.E.A.F.D.R.: The Philippine government shall provide support to local businesses and economic sectors to enable them to compete in the ASEAN market once economic integration is implemented in 2015. The public sector support is designed however not to erect protectionist barriers. Rather, it is meant to lend efficiency to local businesses and economic sectors to enable them to compete in an expanded market. 

This intent is most apparent in agriculture. Government expenditures in the agricultural sector have been steadily ramped up. The increased spending is aimed at, among others, significantly reducing the time it takes for agricultural produce to reach their intended markets. Farm-to-market roads are being improved and constructed as a result. Post-harvest facilities, such as grains storage facilities, which extend the quality of agricultural produce, are also being put in place.  

Another target is to increase productivity in rice production. It is the current administration’s aim to achieve rice self-sufficiency this year. To accomplish this, we have completed the Water Sector Master Plan to address issues and improve the crucial role of water in agriculture. It may be noted that rice production, the bulk of the country’s agricultural output, is exceptionally reliant on water.

To improve water distribution, irrigation projects are currently being undertaken nationwide. Significant efforts are also being made to diversify the variety of rice being produced and the type of agricultural crops being raised by Filipino farmers. The overriding goal is to make the country’s agriculture sector more productive and efficient and thus better able to compete in an ASEAN common market. 

On the second point, the Philippines is indeed highly vulnerable to natural disasters. In 2012, the country was the world’s most affected by natural calamities. These occurrences often cost the country immensely in precious lives lost and damage to property.

In terms of damage to property alone, billions of pesos are spent every year to repair the damage caused by dozens of destructive typhoons, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters which ravage the country annually. 

Effective regional response to the threat of natural disasters should in my view focus on improving capacity in areas such as disaster risk reduction and humanitarian assistance. Second, due to the periodic nature of the occurrence of tropical storms, and in preparation for the increasing effects of global climate change, efforts should be made in making communities resilient in the face of these risk factors. Resiliency is vital since the Philippines can ill-afford to lose its numerous coastal and farmland communities, whose role in the national economy could not be over-stated.  

 

T.D.L.: Placed at the heart of the 21st ASEAN Summit debates held in November 2012, the dispute on sovereignty in the maritime space between China and four Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, remains a threat to regional stability. For you, what steps could be taken towards the adoption of a maritime code of conduct in that area? Given the span of the Sino-Philippines commercial relations, in your opinion, what opportunities could the coming to power of the new Chinese administration, led by President Xi Jinping, open in favor of bilateral consultation? 

 

H.E.A.F.D.R.: The recent tensions have only underscored the urgent need for clarification and the delimitation of maritime boundaries as defined under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the importance of establishing clear rules and procedures in addressing disputes pursuant to international law, and through this process avoid not just the escalation of tensions but armed conflict as well.

It is in the Philippines’ interest to further develop the role of ASEAN in promoting peace and stability in the region. Foremost is the conclusion of a regional Code of Conduct with China, which would contribute to a peaceful, rules-based maritime relations and hence, lay down the conditions for continued economic growth and prosperity. The Philippines is working closely with all partners to realize the early adoption of the Code of Conduct. 

We have been clear and consistent in our position that maritime disputes should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, specifically UNCLOS. We have exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement with China. With the goal of bringing this dispute to a durable solution, we have initiated Arbitral Proceedings under UNCLOS.

We view arbitration as a form of peaceful settlement of disputes. It promotes the rule of law and will benefit all parties. 

However, maritime disputes aside, China is not only a neighbor but also an old friend, with whom we have deep historical, cultural and economic ties. Our bilateral relations should not be solely defined by the recent tensions and I am confident that we can work out a peaceful solution. Former President of China Hu Jintao and I agreed to move the bilateral agenda forward and abstract the contentious issues for a separate treatment. I am hopeful that we will enable to pursue this under the new administration of President Xi Jinping.

T.D.L.: Marking the first trip made by a head of the French Government since 1946, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault conducted an official visit to Manila last October 19, 2012, where he praised the “ambitious strategy of economic development” you are leading. How would you analyze the potential boost in the economic exchanges between the two countries and in which sectors? More generally, how can these renewed Franco-Philippines relations likely promote a strengthening of ties between the Philippines and the European Union?

 

H.E.A.F.D.R.: Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s visit to the Philippines was indeed a defining moment in Philip-
pines-France relations for two reasons. It signaled revitalized ties between the two countries and heightened interest among French businesses in the Philippines. 

Currently, cooperative efforts are being pursued by French and Filipino companies in the civil aviation sector and aerospace industry, among others. Philippine capabilities in these vital sectors are fairly limited at the moment, particularly in the latter. For this reason, we welcome cooperation between French and Filipino firms to enable us to upgrade our industrial capabilities in these areas.

Exploration and production of traditional energy sources, renewable energy production and information technology, fields where France is at the cutting-edge in terms of national capability, are some of the sectors where we also hope to see increased cooperation. Another sector is tourism. 

Data indicate that French tourists rank fifth among the world’s top spenders when holidaying overseas. At the same time, the country has improved its competitiveness in tourism. The 2013 World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report lists the Philippines as “the most improved country in the region, ranking 16th regionally and 82nd overall”, up 12 notches out of 140 countries. With this development, we hope to draw more French visitors to the country.  

The Philippines’ new policy towards the European Union (EU) calls for the intensification and expansion of relations with the regional grouping. The strategy recognizes the EU’s importance as a global economic and political entity. Thus, heightened engagement will be pursued in the areas of trade and investments, political-security cooperation, migration and development, tourism, cultural and development cooperation. 

As a leading member of the EU, we hope France could support the country in achieving a more expansive engagement with the European Union.  

 

T.D.L.: During President Aquino’s visit to Washington last June 8, 2012, he affirmed along with President Barack Obama, the Philippines’ and the United States’ desire to strengthen strategic alliance.  Beyond cooperation in the fight against terrorism, how is the American military presence expected to evolve?  Broadly speaking, what is your vision on American defense strategy’s refocus on the Pacific area?  With the military partnership which also binds the Philippines to Japan and that which you would like to forge with Australia, what is the role that your country aspires to play in the Asian geopolitical scene?

 

H.E.A.F.D.R.: The US is the Philippines foremost strategic ally, but the relationship goes deeper because it rests on the solid ground of shared history, common values, shared commitment to democracy, strong economic ties and strong people-to-people contact. Our Mutual Defense Treaty is the main anchor for our strategic partnership, and the US is a key ally in our defense modernization efforts and in acquiring a minimum defense capability.

Furthermore, we welcome the US rebalance to Asia as a contribution to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region amidst the security challenges arising from conflicting maritime and territorial claims.

We have also always asserted the primacy of international law and a rules-based approach in our relations with our neighbors and we are committed to building stronger networks of cooperation among regional powers through regional and bilateral arrangements.  

Retour en haut de page
 
 

 
La lettre diplomatique Bas
  Présentation - Derniers Numéros - Archives - Nos Liens - Contacts - Mentions Légales