Global Gateway Forum 2023

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron - The Philippine Star

Nearly two years ago, in December 2021, the European Union launched the “Global Gateway” initiative, the European strategy to boost smart, clean and secure connections in digital, energy and transport sectors and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world. The Global Gateway is a partnership of equals. To formalize this partnership, a Global Gateway Forum is organized today in the EU capital Brussels, Belgium. It brings together our key global partners – the Philippines will be represented by the Secretary of Finance, Benjamin E. Diokno – to examine progress and to consider further opportunities and challenges in the strategy’s implementation.

The primary themes evolve around shared global priorities such as the transition to a green economy, renewable energy and green hydrogen, education and research, critical raw materials, transport corridors, health products manufacturing and digital infrastructure.  As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen explained in her State of the European Union address last month about the Global Gateway: “These are investments in our partners’ economies. And they are investments in Europe’s prosperity and security in a fast-changing world.” In other words, the Global Gateway aims to engage with partners globally to promote global public goods, which as such will impact positively both the EU and its partners.

In the Philippines, as highlighted by President von der Leyen during her visit to Manila last July, the EU’s Global Gateway will focus on the twin-transition to a green and digital economy. Witnessed by Presidents Marcos and von der Leyen on 31 July, I signed a joint declaration on the Green Economy Program together with DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga. On 17 October, the NEDA Board, chaired by President Marcos, approved this Program, which will be funded by a P3.62-billion grant from the European Union, and it will be formally signed today at the Global Gateway Forum by DOF Secretary Diokno.

As Secretary Pangandaman of the Department of Budget and Management posted after the NEDA Board meeting: “This Program will empower the national government, LGUs including BARMM and the private sector to lead the way in sustainable green practice, promoting a circular economy, waste reduction and expansion of energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

In fact, over the last months, we have experienced an extraordinary engagement by our Philippine counterparts – led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – to determine the key components and deliverables of this Program. This engagement showed the full ownership of the Government, but also of LGUs and the private sector, to move towards a greener, more circular economy in the Philippines.

As a next step, we will work together with EU member-states in a Team Europe approach to further leverage this initial grant investment. We expect about P9 billion of grant investments linked to this Program, plus P12 billion in sovereign loans and more in private sector investments. This will support the Philippine transition to a circular economy, reduce plastic waste and boost renewable energy production.

In the footsteps of the Green Economy Global Gateway program, the EU has started to work with our Philippine counterparts on a Digital Connectivity Global Gateway program. In April this year, we launched the Copernicus program with the European Space Agency and the Philippine Space Agency. It focuses on the use of Sentinel satellite data for disaster risk management, environmental protection and agriculture/forestry. With this new Digital Connectivity Program (about P1.2 billion), the EU aims at supporting the Philippines to become a digital connectivity hub in the region and expand Copernicus in Southeast Asia.

Another potential Global Gateway cooperation with the Philippines will be the support to environmentally and socially sustainable extraction and processing of critical raw materials. The Philippines possesses a wealth of natural resources that can be used to boost development, if managed in a sustainable way. The archipelago’s mineral resources such as gold, copper, nickel or cobalt and rare earth elements are essential in various industries, such as electronics and renewable energy. Beyond exporting raw ore, the Philippines could develop its mineral processing and manufacturing industries to create higher-value products for global markets. This priority was discussed by President Marcos and President von der Leyen during her visit to Manila, and Europe stands ready to work in this area with our Filipino partners.

It is clear that opportunities are abundant in the Philippines. The Department of Trade and Industry reported last week that the Philippines has approved between January and September this year foreign direct investments in the amount of P427 billion – with the EU, in particular Germany, by far in the lead, and the bulk of this earmarked for renewable energy.

Challenges of course remain: The Philippines is highly vulnerable to natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. And in addition to the challenges posed by the forces of nature and despite ongoing policy reforms, investors grapple with bureaucracy and red-tape as well as uncertainties linked to legal redress in the case of a dispute.

The EU will continue its engagement in the Philippines on access to justice and good governance as well as on peace building, gender equality and socio-economic support to vulnerable communities and humanitarian aid. We will also continue working closely with civil society. However, to support the socio-economic transformation in the Philippines as envisaged in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-28, our partnership with the Philippines has to adjust. The Global Gateway is the joint EU-Philippines response to this challenge.

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Luc Veron is the Ambassador of the European Union delegation to the Philippines.

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