Israel & Australia Boost trade and Investment with the Philippines

The Philippines and Australia have agreed to increase trade and investment flows, particularly citing the potential of the mining sector to boost development.

President Benigno S. Aquino III met Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Parliament House and agreed to resist trade protectionism and promote stable business environment in their respective countries.

The two leaders also witnessed the signing of a new air services agreement between the two countries to help lay the groundwork for increased trade and people-to-people links.

Also tackled were the historic Bangsamoro peace agreement, efforts to combat transnational crimes and counter-terrorism and development aid.

"The leaders agreed the economic relationship between Australia and the Philippines holds great promise, building on the strong foundation provided by the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area," a joint statement of Aquino and Gillard read.

"Both leaders also shared the objective of increasing two-way trade and investment flows and agreed on the importance of a stable and predictable regulatory environment," it added.

Gillard praised Aquino's reform agenda to promote good governance, transparency and accountability in government.

"The Leaders agreed to continue to work in regional and multilateral forums to advance regional economic integration and resist trade protectionism," the statement read.

The two leaders likewise tackled the potential of the mining sector to contribute to the Philippines' development.

"Prime Minister Gillard described the mining industry's role in Australia's economic success, its leadership in environmentally sustainable and socially responsible mining, and the contribution Australian companies could play in the responsible development of the Philippine mining sector, particularly the development of Mindanao," the statement read.

Gillard likewise welcomed the Philippines' decision to apply to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. "The leaders also noted the development cooperation activities provided by Australia that will support responsible mining in the Philippines," the statement read.

Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang said the President mentioned that the government has revised rules on mining to safeguard the environment.

Carandang, speaking to reporters here, said Australia understands that no new mining investments will be approved in the Philippines until a new mining tax is passed by Congress. "They all also know that there's pending legislation. As we've announced before, we want to file a bill with Congress that would allow the state, the Philippine state, to have a greater share of the revenues from mining," he said.

In the same statement, the two leaders welcomed the recent entry into force of the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement between Australia and the Philippines.

They also hailed the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Combatting Transnational Crime and Developing Police Cooperation between the Australian Federal Police and the Philippine National Police. "The leaders noted the high level of cooperation between Australia and the Philippines on counter-terrorism," the statement read.

Gillard likewise thanked Aquino for supporting Australia's bid to become a member of the United Nations Security Council.

The leaders also cited the development aid given by Australia to the Philippines to help reduce poverty.

They also highlighted a program that will help improve access to education in Mindanao which may help promote peace and stability in the region.

"BEAM-ARMM (Basic Education Assistance to Mindanao – Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), will support the most disadvantaged conflict-affected communities. The program will introduce community-based education in remote communities, integrate health and hygiene programs in schools, develop technical and vocational training for out-of-school youth, and increase access to quality early childhood and basic education," the statement read.

After the meeting with Gillard, the President laid a wreath at the Australian War Monument and later toured the place. He also attended a state banquet hosted by Gillard at the Parliament House.

Early in the day, he met Governor General Quentin Bryce at the Government House where he was given a 21-gun salute.

On Thursday, the President will travel to Sydney for a series of meetings with business executives from Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Company of Manila, Macquarie, Austal, and Telstra. He will also deliver speeches before the Philippine-Australia Business Forum, the Asia Society of Australia, and the Australia-Philippine Business Council.

On Friday, Aquino will lead the unveiling of a statue of Dr. Jose Rizal in Campbeltown City and later meet with the Filipino community. There are around 225,000 Filipinos living in Australia while some 6,000 Filipino students are enrolled in Australian schools.

Before flying back home, Aquino will attend a special counter-terrorism demonstration by Australian forces.

Australian officials lauded the Philippine government for forging a historic peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, saying it could be a "model" for other peace processes in the region.

The Australian Prime Minister and her ministers pledged support to the peace process in Mindanao, according to Philippine officials.

"They not only welcomed our Framework Agreement and congratulated the President for concluding the Framework Agreement but they did say that our Framework Agreement can be used as a model for other peace processes in the region," Philippine Ambassador to Australia Belen Anota said in a press briefing after the meeting of the two leaders.

"I think that's a very good sign of Australia's very strong support for us, a strong affirmation of the accomplishments of the President," she added.

Australia and the Philippines are also exploring possible cooperation on disaster relief and rehabilitation under an existing military agreement, Carandang said.

"One of the things that we might look into is enhancing our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. That's something that has been very close to the President's concerns," Carandang told Manila-based reporters here.

Philippines & Israel will boost Trades and investments

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay expressed confidence that his meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres will translate into more trade and investment opportunities between the Philippines and Israel.

Binay met Peres met last Tuesday at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem on the first day of his official visit to the "Promised Land."

During the meeting, Binay urged Peres and ranking Israeli officials to explore new trade and investment opportunities in the Philippines.

"The Philippine-Israel bilateral trade represents a very small percentage of the overall Israel-Asia two-way trade. I hope that our strengthening bilateral relations translate to more investments between our countries," Binay said.

The Philippines could also benefit from Israel's technological advances in agriculture and food production, according to the Vice President.

Binay said he wants to learn how the Philippines could attract technology transfer and further investments from Israel to the Philippines.

"I am happy to note that Filipino agricultural workers are being exposed to Israeli agricultural technology that is considered among the best in the world," Binay said.

"I hope that more Philippines fresh produce such as pineapples and coconuts would find its way into the mainstream Israeli retail market. The Embassy has initiated the mechanism for the approval of pineapple importation to Israel in coordination with the Israel Ministry of Agriculture," he said.

While in Israel, Binay is set to attend a dinner meeting with Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman to discuss regional developments.

He is also expected to meet with Israeli business groups to reinvigorate the overall trade relations between the two countries.

The Vice President will also lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem to pay his respects to the victims of the Holocaust.

He will also go to the Rishon Lezzion Municipality and visit the Open Doors Monument which honors the Philippines' humanitarian act of providing refuge to Jews during the Holocaust.

Binay will also be meeting the Filipino community in Beit Dani, Tel Aviv.

He is slated to attend the inauguration of the Philippine Square at the City of Haifa and meet Mayor Yona Yahav of Haifa city in honor of the sister-city relations between Haifa and Manila.

Binay went to Israel straight from Rome where he witnessed the canonization of the St. Pedro Calungsod over the weekend.

He also represented President Benigno S. Aquino III at the 2012 European Development Days in Brussels last week.

Binay is expected to be back in Manila on October 29.

Manila Bulletin 

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