Manila, 30 January 2014
Today, I am pleased to welcome my good friend, the Right Honorable William Hague, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, who cordially accepted our invitation. Secretary Hague is the highest incumbent British official to visit the Philippines in more than 15 years.
We affirmed our countries’ strong political partnership in both bilateral and multilateral fora and agreed to further strengthen such partnership founded on the mutual interests of peace, security, democracy, human rights and rule of law.
Secretary Hague and I reviewed our countries’ economic relations. British investments in the country increased by an impressive 293 % from PhP 1.72 Billion in 2011 to PhP 6.76 Billion in 2012, making UK a major source of foreign direct investments. Similarly, our bilateral trade performed positively, and increased by 35 % from US$ 687 Million in 2011 to US$ 927 Million in 2012. Among the European Union member states, UK ranks as the fourth top destination for Philippine exports.
I expressed the Philippine government’s appreciation for the UK’s humanitarian aid and support in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. To date, the British government and public provided more than 232 million U.S. Dollars in various forms of assistance, not to mention the deployment of military resources, making the UK the biggest contributor of humanitarian assistance. The immense contribution by the British public is a reflection of the deepening people-to-people relations between our countries.
Secretary Hague conveyed the UK government’s readiness to further participate in our reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts to build back better and safer climate-resilient communities. This confirms the commitment earlier made by Secretary of State Justine Greening during her visit in Manila last November. I underscored that our reconstruction program presents numerous opportunities for cooperation and partnership, both on the part of Government and the private sector. I encouraged the United Kingdom to look into these opportunities.
We exchanged views on ways to further enhance cooperation in the fields of trade, investment and tourism and identified other primary areas, including PPP. Given the favorable economic climate in the Philippines, notably high GDP growth, investment rating upgrades and strong macro-economic fundamentals, on the one hand, and improving economic conditions in the UK, on the other, we agreed that there were immense opportunities for our business people.
We agreed that existing areas of cooperation will be strengthened and future areas explored. We will work on the robust implementation of signed agreements, such as the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and the Extradition Treaty, and for the conclusion of proposed agreements in culture, education, science and sports. Secretary Hague also informed me that the UK will study our proposal for the waiver of visa requirements for diplomatic and official passport holders.
Secretary Hague congratulated the Philippine Government on the completion of the Annexes to the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) with the signing of the Annex on Normalization on January 25th. He conveyed interest in continuing UK’s participation in promoting peace and development in Mindanao. Secretary Hague expressed hope for the early conclusion of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. In thanking the UK side, I stated that the Philippines looked forward to a more peaceful and prosperous Mindanao with these positive developments.
I thanked Secretary Hague for hosting an estimated 250,000 Filipinos living and working in the UK. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs noted the positive role and contribution of our Filipinos to British society and the UK economy.
On the issue of the West Philippine Sea, I shared with Secretary Hague our efforts to seek a peaceful and rules-based solution to this maritime dispute. We agreed that countries should desist from taking actions that affect peace, security and stability in the region. We further agreed on the importance of maritime security, freedom of navigation, non-use of force and the threat of the use of force, and the peaceful settlement of disputes to peace and prosperity in the region.
We thank Secretary Hague for their support in our pursuit of a rules-based solution to the maritime disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law and UNCLOS.
Secretary Hague informed me that he will deliver a keynote speech this afternoon in Manila which represents the UK’s major foreign policy direction in Asia. The choice of the Philippines is significant as it underscores our solid bilateral partnership. END