Mabuhay! Strong partnership

This year, the Philippines celebrates 123 years of independence along with 41 years of diplomatic ties with the UAE


Nisthula Nagarajan

Published: Sat 12 Jun 2021, 5:51 PM

Last updated: Wed 29 Sep 2021, 6:23 AM

Today, the Philippines along with its diplomatic missions all over the world celebrates its 123rd Declaration of Independence. Home to nearly 700,000 Filipinos, every year the community in the UAE comes together for massive cultural events to commemorate June 12, 1898, the proclamation of the Philippines' independence from 333 years of Spanish colonial rule.

The UAE and the Philippines have strong and solid relations anchored in history, based on many common interests. In a double celebration, the Philippines and the UAE also celebrate 41 years of diplomatic ties as of June 17. Filipinos have borne witness to the rise of the UAE with its extraordinary transformation in just five decades.

The UAE-Philippines trade ties are on a solid growth track and are marching ahead. In 2017, the UAE became the Philippines' largest trading partner in the Middle East, deepening ties that were established in 1980. At $1.49 billion (Dh5.47 billion), UAE-Philippine trade accounted for 31 per cent of the regional trade valued at $4.81 billion. That trend has continued until now. Since 2016, bilateral trade has steadily increased. In 2016, bilateral trade was $893.11 million. This increased to $1.95 billion by 2018.

As of 2019, the UAE is also the Philippines' 16th largest trading partner in the world, 15th-largest import supplier, and 20th-largest export market, according to the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre (PTIC) based in Dubai. Earlier this year, PTIC-Dubai also observed that Philippine's produce and goods as food exports to the UAE remained steady in 2020 amid the pandemic. In fact, there is an increasing trend for Filipino food products while Filipino brands are also appearing on shelves of mainstream markets.Â

Recently, Senator Richard Gordon of the Philippines, expressed his appreciation on behalf of Filipino's to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, for the UAE's timely help during a crisis. Gordon stated that Sheikh Mohamed had "established health centres and rebuilt 18 schools in Eastern Samar in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. The UAE also provided free Covid-19 vaccinations to all its residents, including the Filipinos working in their country."

The senate also voiced their gratitude to Sheikh Mohamed for "consistently helping Filipinos" through the years. Born from this gesture, the senate officially adopted Resolution No. 671 recognising the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince for his "gestures of compassion, concern, friendship, solidarity and support toward the Filipino people in times of natural disasters and during the course of the pandemic." Emirates Red Crescent had also come to the Philippines aid in 2014 and provided $10 million to 171 cities and municipalities affected by the 2013 natural disaster. Another recent notable development between the two countries is the signing of an MoU to establish a Consular Committee in April. The committee is aimed at advancing and consolidating cooperation in all joint consular affairs and services to care for and serve the citizens of both countries. Faisal Lutfi, Assistant Undersecretary for Consular Affairs at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), had emphasised how cooperation in the consular field and advancing and bolstering bilateral relations between the two countries is essential.

The first session of the UAE Philippines Consular Committee was held remotely after the signing ceremony. The two sides discussed joint consular matters, follow-up plans and means to develop them. They also explored means of enhancing joint consular cooperation. According to Lutfi, bilateral relations between the UAE and the Philippines have witnessed qualitative shifts since the beginning of the global Covid-19 pandemic, a contribution to consolidating and advancing these relations.

Over the last year, the Philippines Government has repatriated thousands of Filipinos back to their homeland from the UAE as well. Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes confirmed that on June 1, 365 Filipinos were repatriated while the consulate continues to receive applications for the same. Al Ansari Exchange, through its network of 199 branches and digital channels and strong tie-ups with leading Philippine banking and financial institutions, has provided its Filipino patrons with a variety of financial services. According to the UAE Central Bank, the Philippines is the third-largest remittance-receiving country and expat community in the UAE, whose nationals transferred 6.7 per cent of the total remittances from the UAE last year.

On a 'lighter' note, on this day last year, the world's tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, lit up to display the Philippines to signify its solidarity with the country. Tens of thousands of UAE Filipinos living joined a Facebook campaign where they posted their pictures designed with the words, 'Filipinos trust the UAE'. The campaign aimed to express Filipinos' confidence in the UAE Government's efforts to eliminate Covid-19 while implying both countries' earnest support for one another in their efforts to curb the spread of the disease. Dr Karen Remo, CEO and managing director of New Perspective Media Group, which started the campaign, had told WAM that within hours of the launch, Filipinos came together virtually in an unprecedented number to spell out their trust in this nation's leaders. Today, Dubai Festival City Mall will project the flag as part of the mall's award-winning visual and sensory extravaganza, 'Imagine'.

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