Excellency, as the Ambassador of the Republic of The Philippines to South Africa, how would you define your diplomatic tour here thus far? What moments or events stand out?
I’ve been here for 3 years and my mission has been to promote trade, tourism, people-to-people exchanges, and culture. So far it has been a wonderful experience. Our focus for the past three years has been the promotion of trade and we’ve had numerous business delegations coming into South Africa, as well as South African delegations coming to The Philippines. We are very happy at the pace at which we have been going. Aside from South Africa, I also cover nine other countries in Southern Africa as well, so it is quite a big jurisdiction, and quite a challenge.
What are the main fields of collaboration between The Philippines and South Africa and how successful have you been in pursuing new co-operation agreements between both?
We have a Bilateral Consultative Forum every year. Last year The Philippines hosted the forum and this year South Africa will host it. We have been looking at trade, of course, and tourism. Recently we have moved on to other new fields such as maritime co- operation and also in science and technology. We have had several agreements already. They are ready for signing, hopefully later this year when we meet here in South Africa. We have been promoting people-to-people exchanges very strongly in terms of culture, as well as trade, so these have been the primary fields that we have been co-operating in with South Africa.
Ambassador, you mentioned the maritime relations. Your country is the biggest supplier of sea-farers in the world right now. Could you elaborate for our readers?
Thank you for bringing that up. As a matter of fact, that is the field that we wish to enter with South Africa. South Africa has pushed forward Operation Phakisa, which includes, aside from developing coastal areas and seas for economic exploitation, the development of skills for the maritime industry. As you mentioned, The Philippines leads in the training of maritime personnel and we hope to help South Africa in this field as well.
Have any South African brands shown interest in the Filipino market so far?
Yes, there is a strong presence of South African business in The Philippines, particularly in pharmaceuticals and mining. South African wine is also quite popular there, as well as South African juices. During the past five years or so, our economic growth has been phenomenal. It has been growing about 6-7 percent per year, one of the strongest in our part of the world. Just from January 2017 to January 2018, we saw an increase of 57 percent in our foreign direct investment, so it shows a robust economy in The Philippines. Aside from other countries that have been our historical partners, we look forward to having more South African business in The Philippines.
How has the Filipino culture been influenced by the presence of the Chinese, Spaniards, Japanese and Americans during its history?
We have a long history of relationships with other countries and we have grown into such a unique society where all the positive aspects of all these cultures have now permeated the Filipino culture. As a tourist in The Philippines, it is quite exciting and quite unique to experience all of these countries in The Philippines. Our tourism thrust has been in the promotion of our very unique culture. I certainly think that it is the most unique in South-East Asia because of our unique experiences with other countries throughout our history.
Cuisine in your country is influenced by these cultures too. Could you elaborate on that?
Our cuisine is quite unique. There is a Spanish taste to it, some Chinese elements to it, as well as, of course, ethnic Filipino cuisine. Interestingly, when I presented my credentials to some of the leaders in Southern Africa, they mentioned their unique experiences insofar as Filipino chefs are concerned. We do promote our cuisine and several Western magazines in Europe and the United States have mentioned that Filipino cuisine is ready to take off in the international market, and we are really looking forward to that.
As the main promoter of The Philippines in South Africa, what efforts has your mission placed to attract visitors from this country to the Filipino archipelago?
Our beaches are among the best in the world. Boracay, as well as other beaches, have been mentioned in several tourist magazines as among the best in the world. Because of our location, we have an amazing array of sea-life, so scuba diving in The Philippines is certainly one of the best experiences in the world. In addition to our beaches, ancient sites and cultural centres in The Philippines are also very nice tourist attractions. In relation to the South African tourist market, I am happy to say that South Africans can visit The Philippines visa-free for thirty days, so I encourage them to visit. I guarantee that they will find a very pleasant and unique experience there.
One of our local television stations is currently broadcasting Survivor: South Africa and it is taking place in the Mindanao Islands in The Philippines.
Yes, and I hope South Africa tunes in. It certainly gives one an idea of what to expect, perhaps on a more adventurous side. It would appeal to backpackers, as there are many such adventurous sites in The Philippines. Tourists could also visit the more commercial centres, they are among the best in South-East Asia and among the best in the world in terms of very modern tourist facilities.
Thank you, Ambassador.
The pleasure is mine, thank you so much.