India and Philippines cooperation in the post-Covid era - Hindustan Times
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India and Philippines cooperation in the post-Covid era

ByHindustan Times
Sep 26, 2023 01:29 PM IST

This article is authored by John Boitte Santos, charge d’affaires, Philippine Embassy, New Delhi.

In the last four years, the Philippines and India have started to build upon previous gains to further strengthen their bilateral relationship, achieving significant milestones through meaningful engagements. Having served as charge d’affaires in the Philippine Embassy in New Delhi from July 2022 up to the present, it has been my distinct honour to have worked in promoting Philippine interests as well as enhancing the engagements between the Philippines and India, especially on the economic front.

India - Philippines relations
India - Philippines relations

India is an important trading partner and one of the centres of economic activities in the Asia-Pacific region. The Philippine Embassy in New Delhi has advocated for the Philippines as the most strategic partner in South East Asia, which has the potential to truly complement India’s investments and expansion of its research and development, as well as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industries.

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This is in view of the Philippines’ growing strength in innovation, young and skilled population, competitive advantage in the English language, and current economic reforms. The Philippines and India can definitely both benefit from continued engagements, collaboration as well as learnings from each country’s unique experiences.

India is set to become the third largest economy by 2027 and, by all accounts, is expected to surpass Japan and Germany, the currently ranking third and fourth largest economies, respectively. India’s economy has also become the world’s fastest-growing economy among the large economies, with a 5.5% average Gross Domestic Product over the past decade. Just last year, India’s economy overtook the United Kingdom in terms of size, making the former the fifth-largest economy in the world.

For its part, the Philippine government’s foreign policy takes forward a socio-economic agenda that aims to reduce poverty to 9% by 2028 and bring the Philippines to “upper-middle income” status. Food and energy security have become a main objective of our bilateral and multilateral engagements, and in line with this, the Government has issued clear directives for optimising partnerships to accelerate agricultural productivity as well as modernise agricultural infrastructure.

The Philippines also acknowledges the role of emerging space-based technologies as sources of opportunities to innovate. There is much room for collaboration between the Philippines and India on this front, and of note is the recent establishment in 2019 of the Philippine Space Agency or PHILSA, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. As part of its mandate, the agency is tasked to contribute and promote the development of the Philippines’ national security and development through space education, space research, space industry, and capacity building, among others.

Shambhu S Kumaran, the Indian ambassador to the Philippines, recently pronounced that the government of India is making headway in more capacity-building activities as well as future collaboration with the Philippines via the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The Philippines, for its part, has its sights set to be a space-capable country by 2030.

In the pharmaceutical sector, the Philippines sources critical inputs for the production of essential goods, such as Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, from India. Indian pharma companies are encouraged to have their research and development facilities in the Philippines that would employ Filipinos or go into joint ventures with local pharma companies, which would result in technology transfer and capacity- building.

Indian pharma companies from India are likewise encouraged to set up their manufacturing facilities in the country as there are vast opportunities for Indian investments with the implementation of the country’s Universal Health Care Program, complemented by the growing population and economic development of the Philippines. Philippine government officials from the department of health may look into visiting Indian pharma companies to get the ball rolling in improving the Philippines’ capacity to develop and manufacture medicines. We can learn a lot from India in this regard.

In the information technology sector, the Philippines and India’s collaboration in the BPO sector has grown exponentially in the last few years. Several Indian IT companies have already set up BPO operations in the Philippines, and these include companies like WIPRO, TCS, L&T Infotech, Innodata, IL&FS Genpact, Infosys, HIGS (Hindujas) and Tech Mahindra giving jobs and employment opportunities to thousands of Filipino professionals.

This is just as well, as the Philippines offers state-of-the-art telecommunications facilities and adequate uninterrupted power supply. Specialised IT zones offer ready-to-occupy offices and production facilities, computer security and building monitoring systems, as well as complete office services.

Since the early 2000s, the Philippines has been the leading voice BPM services provider, surpassing all other markets. Today, the industry has proven its ability to evolve by expanding to multi-tower and higher-value services that have attracted investors and locators globally. Offering more complex and digitally-enabled non-voice services, the Philippine IT-industry has transformed into a multi-delivery model and continues to provide business process services to various industries.

The Philippine government is also keenly working on the strengthening of telecommunications and digital infrastructure in the country. The country aims for an ICT sector policy ecology that will promote the broad market-led development of essential ICT sectors, a level playing field, partnership between the public and private sectors, strategic alliance with foreign investors, and balanced investments.

The finalisation of this policy is a significant step in addressing the nation’s connectivity needs, that was rendered more urgent because of the pandemic. With these developments, it is a great opportunity for the Philippines and India to promote the development and growth of the information technology industry for mutual interests and benefits.

With all the foregoing, there is clearly good reason to be optimistic about the Philippines’ economic prospects.

Of course, sustained and consistent economic growth will not be possible without the preservation of national security. In this regard, the Philippine government is working diligently in pursuing the Philippines’ security and defence agenda, whose key elements include sovereignty and territorial integrity, disaster resilience, climate change adaptation, cyber defence, capability modernisation, as well as security cooperation and agreements.

Recently, in June of this year, both countries engaged in the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) headed by the Philippine department of foreign affairs secretary Enrique A Manalo as well as Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi.

One of the most important achievements of said bilateral talks is both countries’ joint statement, which said, in part, “They underlined the need for a peaceful settlement of disputes and for an adherence to international law, especially the UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea in this regard.” This is a promising development, and the Philippines is grateful to India for its support in this very important matter.

With high hopes, and as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Philippine-India diplomatic relations in November next year, may both countries’ engagements be more extensive, cooperative, and meaningful.

This article is authored by John Boitte Santos, charge d’affaires, Philippine Embassy, New Delhi.

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