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Opinion

UK-Philippines partnership bolstered by Foreign Secretary visit

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Laure Beaufils - The Philippine Star

Last week, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visited Manila. It was his first visit to the Philippines, and a clear demonstration of the UK’s commitment to the Philippines as a like-minded partner. As he and President Bongbong Marcos agreed, we share a common global outlook and enjoy strong partnerships. Indeed, the UK and the Philippines have a mature, long-lasting relationship, solidly grounded in mutual respect, a shared belief in openness, freedom and the rule of law, and a shared commitment to promoting a stable and peaceful rules-based international order.

The ambitions for our bilateral relationship were recently evidenced when our respective foreign secretaries launched our Enhanced Partnership in November 2021. The Enhanced Partnership covers all aspects of UK-Philippines bilateral relations and is the touchstone of the relations between our two countries. As part of his visit, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Philippine Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo issued a Joint Statement of Intent, setting out our shared ambition to further bolster the UK-Philippines Enhanced Partnership, particularly on maritime security, climate and environment, trade and economic development and science and tech.

Less than two years after the EP was launched, we can already look back at significant, tangible achievements we have delivered together.

Already, our economic relationship is a success story. Trade between the UK and the Philippines is at its highest ever level at £2.6 billion. We are planning a new Joint Trade Economic Committee to accelerate this even further. We have seen major new UK investment in the Philippines, including Diageo’s £223-million acquisition of Don Papa Rum. Through our trade preference scheme, we have made 99 percent of Filipino exports eligible for tariff free access to the UK. We have £4 billion in UK export finance to further support British trade with the Philippines. Together, we will enhance trade and investment with a particular focus on renewable energy, agriculture, infrastructure and technology and promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.

Our trade work has been supported by British Investment Partnerships (BIP), which our UK Minister for Asia, Anne Marie Trevelyan, launched alongside Secretary Benjamin Diokno in March this year. BIP catalyzes and accelerates investments in green infrastructure. We have backed investments of £32 million in hydro and solar projects in the Philippines, seen private investments in biomass of $350 million and a new partnership with the Philippine Stock Exchange.

We have developed strong partnerships with the Philippines on climate, environment and biodiversity. Over the last year, we have worked with the Philippines to support the development of climate tools and strategies that set the country’s direction on climate action. This includes a National Adaptation Plan, which will be launched at COP28. Together, we are implementing a suite of programs to enhance climate resilience and adaptation, halting and reversing nature and biodiversity loss and accelerating the transition towards a green economy.

We have boosted our maritime engagement and taken it to new levels. We have broadened our cooperation on maritime law, promoting maritime domain awareness and advancing marine environmental protection. We have been clear in our support for the Philippines on the importance of upholding the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as the legal framework for all activities in the ocean and seas. The UK Foreign Secretary’s visit of a Philippines Coast Guard vessel this week was evidence of this.

Together with the British Council, we have invested in people, improving educational opportunities and boosting our precious people-to-people ties. This has included support on skills development with TESDA and the setting up of 15 UK-Philippines dual degree postgraduate programs across 11 Filipino and nine British universities. It has also included scholarships, university linkages and other educational and cultural exchanges. Through our Chevening scholarship program in particular, over 500 scholars have now completed fully funded masters degrees of their choice and returned to the Philippines as the next generation of leaders and decision-makers.

We have taken pride in supporting the peace process in the BARMM – sharing our experience from the peace process in Northern Ireland and investing in the new institutions of parliament and government.

There is a lot more we have done – across key areas such as Serious and Organized Crime, health, media freedom and science. And we have begun investing in key new relationships and programs, for example in cyber-security and tech.

There is much we can already celebrate but we will not rest on our laurels. We are drawing on the momentum already generated to scale up our joint ambitions. The Joint Statement of Intent is a vote of confidence in the power of partnerships and the strengthening ties between the UK and the Philippines.

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Laure Beaufils is the British Ambassador to the Philippines.

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