The Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines (SFA), H.E. Mr. Enrique A. Manalo, is on an official visit to India from 27 to 30 June 2023. External Affairs Minister of India (EAM), Dr. S. Jaishankar, and SFA co-chaired the 5th meeting of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) on 29 June 2023 at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. SFA also called on the Vice-President of India, Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar during his visit.
2. Both Ministers noted the expanding scope of India-Philippines ties and agreed to work together to further strengthen the bilateral partnership. They noted the complementarities the two countries share as vibrant, youthful democracies and fast-growing economies in the Indo-Pacific region. In this context, they recalled the guidance from their leaders, President of the Philippines, H.E. Mr. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., and Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, as expressed during their telephone conversation on 5 August 2022 to forge a wide-ranging partnership spanning developmental sectors such as health, agriculture and the digital economy as well as cooperation in defense and security.
3. Both Ministers committed to develop mutually supportive approaches to regional and international developments.
4. Both Ministers expressed satisfaction with the series of high-level engagements between the two countries, including the 4th meeting of the JCBC in virtual mode in November 2020; EAM’s visit to the Philippines in February 2022; visit of the then SFA, H.E. Mr. Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr., to India in April 2022; and the bilateral interaction in November 2022 between SFA and EAM on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. They also noted the outcomes of their regular dialogue mechanisms such as the Foreign Office Consultations and Strategic Dialogue last held in Manila in August 2022, among others.
5. EAM and SFA agreed to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2024 in a fitting manner.
6. On Defense Cooperation, both Ministers expressed keen interest to continue to work together in this sector, including through the regular or upgraded official level interaction among defense agencies, opening of the resident Defense Attaché office in Manila, consideration of India’s offer for concessional Line of Credit to meet Philippines’ defense requirements, acquisition of naval assets, and expansion of training and joint exercises on maritime security and disaster response, among others.
7. Acknowledging the growing importance of the maritime sector for both countries, both Ministers welcomed the bilateral Maritime Dialogue and the increased cooperation on hydrography.
8. Both Ministers emphasized the utility of maritime domain awareness, and in this context called for early operationalization of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the White Shipping Agreement between the Indian Navy (IN) and the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG). They looked forward to the signing of the MoU on Enhanced Maritime Cooperation between the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Philippines Coast Guard (PCG).
Law Enforcement cooperation
9. EAM and SFA encouraged early negotiations for a bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Criminal Matters and a Treaty on Transfer of Sentenced Persons. It was agreed that the first round of talks would be held in the Philippines in August 2023.
10. Recognizing Terrorism and Transnational Crimes as common security threats, they directed that the 2nd Joint Working Group (JWG) on Counter-Terrorism meet in the Philippines in 2023 and discuss forging a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Terrorism and Transnational Crime.
Trade and Investment
11. SFA and EAM expressed satisfaction at the growing pace of bilateral trade, which had for the first time crossed the level of USD 3 billion in 2022-23, and agreed to commence negotiations on a bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement.
12. EAM highlighted the growing engagement between businesses on both sides, including through nearly thirty business-to-business meetings held over the past three years in different sectors. EAM and SFA agreed to encourage their companies to sustain their engagement, and explore new investment opportunities.
13. SFA and EAM positively noted the ratification of the Agreement on Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIP) in the Philippines signed in February 2023, which has added a new facet to bilateral relations. EAM underlined India’s commitment to share its digital innovations for the benefit of local communities in the Philippines across sectors such as disaster resilience, health, water, environment protection, education and others.
14. SFA expressed appreciation for India’s offer to extend concessional Lines of Credit for infrastructure projects, as well as for any other mutually identified projects.
Health and Pharmaceuticals
15. Both sides noted the health sector as one of the priority sectors for bilateral engagement. They agreed on an early meeting of the bilateral JWG on Health to devise concrete initiatives to expand cooperation.
16. EAM and SFA welcomed the signing of a bilateral MoU for Cooperation in Ayurveda in April 2022. They expressed satisfaction at the substantive outcomes of the visit by a high-level Indian AYUSH Ministry delegation to the Philippines and called for early steps to implement the MOU.
Tourism and Civil Aviation
17. SFA and EAM emphasized the need for expanded connectivity and ease of travel to enable the growth of tourism, trade & investment and people to people exchange between the two countries. EAM and SFA acknowledged the implementation of initiatives by both sides to facilitate travel.
18. SFA and EAM expressed satisfaction at the ratification of the Air Services Agreement signed in September 2021. They noted that this would enable the airlines of both countries to explore direct flight connectivity.
19. They also welcomed their respective departments of tourism to come up with initiatives to further expand tourism flows, along with early scheduling of JWG on Tourism. EAM welcomed the announcement of the Philippines Government to introduce e-visa for Indian nationals and noted that India had already extended e-visa facility to the Philippines.
20. Recalling that food security is an area of primary importance to both countries, EAM conveyed support for sharing of India’s knowledge, best practices and experience across the agricultural value chain with the relevant stakeholders in the Philippines.
21. SFA conveyed Philippine interest in expanding collaboration on fisheries and marine culture and called for the convening of the Joint Working Group on Agriculture to discuss additional areas of agricultural cooperation.
22. Recognizing the significant opportunities provided by digital innovations in Fintech sector, SFA and EAM welcomed the signing of a bilateral MoU in June 2023 for the constitution of a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fintech, which would provide the institutional framework for cooperation on digitalization of payments, direct benefit transfer using National ID and financial inclusion.
Science and Technology (S&T) Cooperation
23. Both Ministers expressed satisfaction at the commencement of institutional exchanges between their respective Departments of Science and Technology, with the convening of the first Joint S&T Committee meeting in July 2021. SFA highlighted that India is one of the Philippines’ priority foreign partners in science and technology. They noted that a new Programme of Cooperation (POC) on S&T for 2023-2026 has been finalized and recommended continued engagement in this area.
24. EAM and SFA welcomed the initiation of bilateral engagement on space through training and exchanges, inter alia, leading to the first round of bilateral dialogue, held virtually, between the Philippine Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organization/Department of Space earlier this month. They encouraged continued deliberations on the proposed MOU on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
Cooperation on Consular Matters
25. SFA and EAM agreed to convene the 4th Philippines-India Joint Consular Consultations Meeting (JCCM) in Manila in the last quarter of 2023.
26. Recognizing the need to expand cultural exchanges which had been affected by the pandemic, EAM and SFA recommended that a new Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) be agreed before the end of 2023.
27. SFA and EAM noted the strong people-to-people linkages formed through academic exchanges and agreed to continue discussion on further strengthening cooperation in this field.
Regional and Multilateral Issues
28. EAM and SFA held wide-ranging and substantive discussions on regional and international issues of mutual concern. They underlined that both countries have a shared interest in a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. They underlined the need for peaceful settlement of disputes and for adherence to international law, especially the UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea in this regard.
29. They recognized the need for developing countries to coordinate their responses to key issues. In this context, EAM welcomed SFA’s participation at the Voice of the Global South Summit organized by India in January 2023.
30. They expressed satisfaction at ongoing cooperation between the two countries in ASEAN and at multilateral forums and agreed to continue to work together in the United Nations and other multilateral organizations, especially on issues such as climate change, sustainable development and counter-terrorism. The two countries would also support each other’s candidatures to various multilateral organizations to enable both countries to play a more active role in these organizations.
31. Given the urgent need for UN Security Council reforms, both sides agreed to the expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories of membership, and reforms of the working methods of the UN Security Council, and agreed to work together at the UN to attain concrete outcomes on UN Security Council reforms as soon as possible.
32. It was agreed to hold the next round of Joint Committee on Bilateral Cooperation in the Philippines on mutually convenient dates.
June 29, 2023