From the Department of Foreign Affairs
The Philippines and Switzerland successfully concluded their 6th Bilateral Consultations on February 27 at the Tower Club in Makati City, vowing to intensify bilateral economic and political cooperation and partnership. The meeting was cochaired by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary for Policy Evan P. Garcia and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant State Secretary for Asia-Pacific, Ambassador Beat Nobs. DFA Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson and Switzerland’s Ambassador to the Philippines Ivo Sieber also participated in the Bilateral Consultations.
The two sides welcomed the signing of the Agreement on the Establishment of a Joint Economic Commission (JEC) as a concrete first step in this direction. The Philippines will host the inaugural meeting in July which will have a private sector component composed of Swiss businessmen from various sectors.
Against the background of its enhanced presence in the Asia-Pacific, Switzerland has been active in pursuing economic agreements in the region, including in the Philippines. Upon signing the Joint Declaration of Cooperation, the Philippines can commence bilateral negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) composed of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. Collectively, EFTA member countries have some of the highest GDP per capita in the world.
At the outset, the Philippines thanked Switzerland for the humanitarian assistance it has extended to the victims of super typhoon Yolanda. Switzerland was one of the first countries to respond following the super typhoon and its total combined public and private humanitarian assistance amounts to $49 million.
Switzerland reaffirmed its commitment to co-host the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management which will take place in Manila this June. The Conference will see 48 partner countries in the ASEM, the ASEAN Secretariat and the European Commission discuss how to better cope and
deal with mega disasters in the future. The Philippines agreed to cohost Switzerland’s proposed ASEM Conference on Restitution of Hidden Wealth later this year.
During the bilateral consultations, the Philippines and Switzerland exchanged views on various areas of common concern, including migration, education, finance, regional and international issues. They agreed on the importance of maritime security, freedom of navigation, and the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). As President of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Switzerland will focus on security, freedom and responsibility.
Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Switzerland were formally established on August 30, 1957 although Swiss presence in the country had been recorded since the 1800s. In 1862, Switzerland established an honorary consulate in Manila, its first diplomatic outpost in Asia.
In 2012, bilateral trade stood at $657 million while Swiss investments in the Philippines amounted to $290 million. There are an estimated 60 Swiss companies operating in the Philippines.