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Opinion

Bridging friendship between the UK and the Philippines amid COVID challenges

A GREAT BRITISH VIEW - Daniel Pruce - The Philippine Star

I often find myself telling people that the relationship between the UK and the Philippines is closer than they may know, and growing closer all the time. This felt particularly true last week, when I convened, with my Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) colleague Cerefino Rodolfo, the second annual UK-Philippines Economic Dialogue.

The dialogue was a moment to crystallise all we have achieved together and to make ambitious plans for what we will achieve next. As we face the global challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK and the Philippines committed to a joint health response and deeper partnerships to help shape an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable new normal.

As a sign of the times, the Economic Dialogue met in the virtual world, bringing together UK government departments and 15 Philippine agencies. We jointly set an ambitious agenda covering COVID-19 response, trade and investment, inclusive social development in health and education, green and sustainable programmes, and an exciting forward look on innovation and the digital economy. This was an opportunity to reaffirm our growing bilateral trade links and celebrate an expanding economic cooperation that responds to COVID challenges.

Some of the exciting UK-Philippine collaborations that support the COVID response include programme partnerships under our UK Prosperity Fund (PF) Better Health Programme. The UK National Health Service (NHS) together with the Department of Health, UP College of Public Health, and local governments of Pasig City and Iloilo City collaborate on virtual knowledge-sharing and joint research that help build local capacity to respond to health emergencies alongside existing health needs in the country. Cutting edge UK commercial expertise in digital health also provides opportunities for more accessible health services including an AI-enabled telemedicine app (provided through Pru Life-Babylon) and UK vaccine research efforts, reinforcing the UK’s global commitment to equitable access.

Bilateral trade between our two countries has steadily grown over the years. The Economic Dialogue was an opportunity for our Department for International Trade and the Philippine DTI to discuss new frontiers, including the UK’s new tariff regime (UK Global Tariff). We jointly discussed policy reform around an enabling business environment, citing our sustained partnership with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) on ease of doing business and increased transparency in business integrity and effective competition policy under our PF ASEAN Economic Reform programme. Through an investment promotion collaboration with the Board of Investments, we welcome new investment opportunities not just in pharmaceuticals, automotives, electronics and aerospace but also in innovation and the digital economy.

The expanding UK Prosperity Fund portfolio sets our sights to be a key development partner towards an ‘inclusive, green and sustainable’ economic recovery. We look forward to our inclusive business and finance collaboration on fintech, efficient and streamlined e-governance, e-commerce and effective intellectual property enforcement, with a focus on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) facing the brunt of the pandemic. Our Future Cities partnerships in Clark and in Cebu support the creation of safe, open and green spaces and a holistic approach to data-driven city management in urban planning, transport and resilience.

We are strengthening even more our social development programmes through deeper health linkages, local health modules and technical and vocational skills training to benefit communities across the Philippines, especially the most vulnerable sectors. The UK education offer remains an excellent option as we face the global challenges of distance learning and emerging industry needs. The British Council supports continued creative industry collaborations to celebrate the immense Filipino talent. To date our total number of Filipino Chevening scholars has gone up to 486 scholars, with 18 new scholars this year.

With the UK hosting the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) next year in partnership with Italy, our global efforts gravitate towards building back better in support of a green and resilient economy. In the Philippines, this is supported by our ongoing partnerships on Green Finance with the Department of Finance, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Securities and Exchange Commission as well as energy efficiency collaborations with the Department of Energy under our PF ASEAN Low Carbon Energy programme.

As we move towards 75 years of UK-Philippine friendship, these stronger development, trade and investment and wider diplomatic links bridge our two great island-nations even closer. I look forward to deeper collaboration, working hand in hand here in the Philippines, in ASEAN and the wider region.

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Daniel Pruce,?British Ambassador to the Philippines, Twitter @DanielPruce

UK

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