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NSP Plus: People-centered community of peace and prosperity

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Han Dong-Man (The Philippine Star) - November 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Time flies. It has been almost three years since my tour of duty began here in Manila. From day one, I was deeply impressed by the generosity, warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people. Thus, it did not take long to become a part of the local communities, sharing every Filipino’s joy, anger, sorrow and delight. I rooted for the Filipino athletes more than anyone else during the Pyongchang Olympic Games, and I was more saddened and worried than anyone else whenever natural disasters swept the Philippines.

Looking back, I think my journey can be described as putting together two countries and peoples even closer with the glue of “New Southern Policy.” With this policy in full swing, Seoul and Manila have achieved a lot in all three pillars of the NSP, namely, people, prosperity and peace.

There is a saying in Korea, “You could get the answer from the place where it is happening.” That is why I tried to visit every corner of the Philippines, where I found lots of hidden attractions besides Bohol, Boracay and Cebu, and experienced warm hospitality. Salamat, at mahal ko ang Pilipinas at ang mga Pilipino!

Among others, it was memorable to see the bright future of the Philippines and Korea-Philippine relations in the smiling faces, the energy, passion and politeness of young Filipino students in places like Palawan State University, Angeles University Foundation and Boracay National High School. Of course, numbers already tell us the good news. Before the pandemic, Koreans comprised the biggest group of tourists in the Philippines, with some two million arrivals in 2019. On the other hand, more than 500,000 Filipinos visited Korea last year. I believe these figures will bounce back once the pandemic is over. Truthfully, COVID-19 failed to stop us from being together. K-dramas like “Crash Landing on You” connected Filipinos and Koreans even in the middle of the pandemic. Bringing peoples from the two countries closer and heart-to-heart comes first in the NSP’s ideals.

There is another saying in Korea that I always keep in mind: “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” I have been mulling over how to promote common prosperity for the two countries, particularly from the lens of Manila. So, I spearheaded the launch of Korea-Philippines FTA negotiations in June 2019, which is now nearing conclusion. The ensuing agreement will bring about a win-win substantive outcome. In the face of COVID-19, the Korean government, in partnership with private Korean companies, has provided the Philippines essential supplies, including protective masks, face shields and testing kits worth over $2.5 million, and recently contributed $100 million through the Economic Development Cooperation Fund. All these were done as the NSP aims for co-prosperity.

Under the NSP, our countries’ deep-rooted partnership and friendship for peace were also bolstered. Taking the lead to this end was the Philippine legislature with resolutions adopted last year by the Senate, recognizing the unwavering and steadfast friendship between us and commemorating the 70th anniversary of our robust bilateral relations, and by the House of Representatives, welcoming the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit.

Meanwhile, Korea has been a strategic partner of the Philippines in its military modernization program, including the purchase of 12 FA-50 fighter jets in 2017 and the donation of a Pohang-class corvette in 2019. For my part, I initiated the launch of the Philippines-Korea Society in November 2019, expecting it to become a driving force for the strengthened friendship and solidarity between our two nations.

Even though we have achieved a lot, unexpected situations like the coronavirus pandemic require innovative thinking and approach. Against this backdrop, while he remains committed to regional peace and prosperity, President Moon Jae-in announced the New Southern Policy Plus Strategy during the recent 21st ASEAN-ROK Summit, which was welcomed by ASEAN leaders.

The NSP Plus Strategy lays out fresh, feasible initiatives centered on the seven key areas of cooperation, including comprehensive healthcare cooperation. The ASEAN also launched the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework at the same time. It is expected that Korea and the ASEAN will enjoy great co-prosperity by combining the five key areas proposed by ASEAN with the NSP Plus Strategy.

In this context, our embassy hosted a webinar on NSP Plus on Nov. 26 to explore the ways on how to implement the NSP Plus Strategy in the context of the Philippines. Filipino experts contributed valuable inputs on how to push forward.

The NSP has now embarked on a new journey with reinforced commitment. With this strategy, Korea will spare no effort to further enhance its relations with its ASEAN friends, including the Philippines. Down the road, Korea will continue to hear Filipino voices to deliver the best outcome. Thus, I am more than optimistic of the future of ROK-Philippine relations.

As mentioned by President Duterte when he visited Korea in 2018, “A deeper engagement with South Korea, our long-standing partner and true friend, is essential to further strengthen individual and collective efforts for greater peace, progress and prosperity.” I have no doubt the NSP Plus will play a crucial role in our journey toward wider and deeper relations in the future.

Magsabay-sabay tayo tungo sa kapwa kaunlaran batay sa ating matibay na pagka-kaibigan at samahan!

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Han Dong-man is Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines.

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