Manila, Singapore vow stronger response vs Covid

Roslan RAHMAN/POOL/Agence France-Presse Friendship blooms. Philippine President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. admires an orchid named after him and First Lady Louise Araneta-Marcos, the ‘Dendrobium Ferdinand Louise Marcos,’ during an orchid-naming ceremony at the National Orchid Garden in Singapore on 7 September 2022.

September 8, 2022

The Philippine and Singaporean governments on Wednesday expressed their willingness to pursue enhanced partnership to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic “stronger together.”

The two countries made the commitment during the second day of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s state visit to Singapore at the invitation of Singapore President Halimah Yacob.

In a joint statement with the Department of Foreign Affairs, it stated that both Southeast Asian countries agreed that they will “continue enhancing bilateral cooperation” to emerge from the global health crisis “stronger together.”

“Both sides discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and recognized the importance of closer cooperation to enable both countries to emerge stronger together from the pandemic in an inclusive and sustainable manner,” the statement read.

Marcos, Yacob, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcomed the support both countries provided each other at the onset of the pandemic, including medical supplies and equipment.

The leaders reaffirmed the strong people-to-people ties, with Halimah thanking Filipino healthcare workers and frontline personnel for their contributions to Singapore’s Covid-19 response.

“Both leaders also welcomed the issuance of a Joint Communique on the Recruitment of Filipino Healthcare Workers between the Department of Migrant Workers of the Philippines and the Ministry of Health of Singapore,” DFA said.

The leaders believe these will pave the way for the continued deployment of Filipino healthcare professionals to Singapore as well as greater bilateral cooperation in the field of healthcare.

Supply chain connectivity

The two nations also committed to exploring ways to improve supply chain connectivity and resilience so as to boost mutual economic resiliency.

According to DFA, Singapore was the Philippines’ largest foreign investor in 2021, with investments totaling $1.5 billion.

As of 2020, the country’s cumulative foreign direct investment into the Philippines was $6.9 billion, mainly in real estate and hospitality, telecommunications, transport and logistics, consumer goods and utilities.

Both countries have expressed the importance of keeping the bilateral partnership “forward-looking and ambitious” as well as enhancing cooperation in the digital and education fields.

“The Leaders welcomed the ongoing opportunities for the Philippines and Singapore to work together in growth areas, including the digital economy, agri-trade, infrastructure development, innovation, urban solutions, sustainability, and consumer business,” the statement read.

The now signed Philippine-Singapore memorandum of understanding to develop the New Clark City, through technology transfer and partnerships in urban and smart city solutions, is expected to further stimulate trade and investment flows.

Both parties are also working to expand their existing bilateral Air Transport Agreement, a move aimed to increase connectivity and opportunities for growth.

Marcos vowed to fully maximize the country’s trade and economic cooperation with Singapore to attract foreign investments, generate more jobs, and accelerate post-pandemic economic growth.

Top investor

The Philippine leader noted that the Southeast Asian country became the Philippines’ top investor last year, with Singaporean companies maintaining big-ticket projects in telecommunications, infrastructure, startup and innovation, renewable energy and healthcare.

“That is why our economic team, ito po ang humaharap sa inyo ngayon, ay makikipagkita sa mga possible na investor na maglalagay ng negosyo sa Pilipinas. Hindi lamang ‘yun na patibayin ang trade ng Singapore at saka ng Pilipinas,” Marcos said.

“We proactively attract investments in our country in order to accelerate post-pandemic growth and create more jobs in the Philippines.”

DMW

Speaking to the Filipino community in Singapore on Tuesday, Marcos vowed to make the Department of Migrant Workers fully operational by 2023.

He also reaffirmed his commitment to helping overseas Filipino workers and their families, whom they left in the country.

Marcos said his administration, through DMW Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople, will take care of the OFWs and their families through scholarship grants, healthcare benefits and housing, among others.

Following a three-day state visit in Indonesia — where he secured $8 billion worth of investment pledges — Marcos flew to Singapore on Tuesday afternoon for another state visit.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles said more than 1,500 OFWs gathered to welcome the President.

Marcos won a landslide victory in the 2022 presidential elections after securing 70 percent of the total votes cast — the second highest voter turnout for overseas automated voting in the Asia Pacific and the third highest in the world.

An estimated 200,000 OFWs are currently living and working in Singapore. Of this number, 58 percent are registered as professionals and skilled workers, while 42 percent are employed as household service workers.

Marcos recognized Singapore as one of the country’s top trading partners in Southeast Asia.

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, OFWs in Singapore continue to send remittances to their families in the Philippines.

In fact, Singapore was the second largest source of overseas Filipino remittances worldwide for the year 2021 amounting to $2.20 billion.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, a total of $8.484 billion worth of memorandum of understanding and letters of intent were signed at the Jakarta Business Roundtable Meeting, where Marcos met various business leaders, such as the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry or Kadin Indonesia, and the Philippine Business Club in Indonesia.

Among them is $822 million in investments in textiles, garments, renewable energy, satellite gateway, wire global technology, and agrifood.

The President’s trip also yielded $7 billion in infrastructure for unsolicited private-public partnerships such as a C-5 four-level elevated expressway.

A $662-million trade value for the supply of coal and fertilizer was also signed.

The Philippine government anticipates that these deals will generate at least 7,000 new local jobs.


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