In a forward-looking approach, the Philippines is actively pursuing a strategic partnership with Korea this year, building on the historic Philippines-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed last year. With the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations approaching, both nations are keen on elevating collaboration in various sectors, according to the Philippine Ambassador to Korea, Maria Theresa B. Dizon-De Vega.
The bilateral discussions encompass more than just economic ties, aiming for a comprehensive collaboration that spans emerging sectors, technological advancements, and the overall well-being of both nations. Ambassador Dizon-De Vega expressed optimism about the growth of the Korea-Philippines economic relationship, emphasizing the anticipated benefits of the recently signed FTA, set to take effect shortly.
"Korea, for the Philippines, is a valued trade and investment partner, ranking fourth in total bilateral trade volume and sixth in approved investments," said the ambassador. The FTA, signed during the ASEAN Summit, is considered a "next-generation FTA," addressing traditional components while recognizing emerging sectors crucial for both economies.
Under the FTA, tariffs on Korean cars and car parts will be lifted, and the agreement incorporates emerging industries such as green technology, creative and knowledge industries, and advancements in health sectors. Ambassador Dizon-De Vega highlighted the commitment to fostering a strong and mutually beneficial partnership in the years to come.
Beyond trade and investment, the FTA includes economic cooperation, focusing on research and development (R&D) opportunities. The collaboration extends to cultural exchanges and tourism, with the Philippines and Korea celebrating 75 years of diplomatic relations starting in March 2024.
The ambassador emphasized the strength of people-to-people relations, rooted in shared sacrifices during the Korean War. Approximately 67,000 Filipinos reside in Korea, and over 80,000 Koreans have found a second home in the Philippines, contributing to cultural exchanges.
Despite pandemic challenges, Korea has regained its position as the top tourism market for the Philippines. The upcoming 75th-anniversary celebrations will include various initiatives, such as book projects, sports diplomacy programs, artistic exchanges, and cultural events, aiming to commemorate shared history and pave the way for future strategic relations.
Ambassador Dizon-De Vega characterized the current diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Korea as issue-free, emphasizing the absence of outstanding major irritants or issues. While challenges exist, the commitment to working closely together to identify priorities and areas of cooperation remains a focal point in the evolving partnership.
As both nations look forward to a year-long celebration, the Philippines and Korea demonstrate a positive outlook on deepening ties, fostering economic growth, and promoting cultural exchanges for the mutual benefit of their people.