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Philippines-Netherlands Connections At 70: Reconstructing History And Forging Ahead

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Diplomat Magazine
Diplomat Magazine
DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands. Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. "Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions." Dr. Mayelinne De Lara, Publisher

By Roy Lie Atjam

The Hague, 10 November 2021, the Philippines and the Netherlands celebrated the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries on the  9th an 10th of  November 2021 utilizing a webinar.

Following is the inaugurating remarks by H.E. Ambassador Jose Eduardo Malaya.

It is with delight that I open and deliver welcome remarks at this webinar, the vision for which is both ambitious and grounded, forward-looking and retrospective, and deals with historical matters but more so, on current issues that are relevant to the Philippines and the Netherlands.

As Ambassador, I can perhaps be excused for being effusive and highly optimistic about the bilateral relations and its prospects, after all this year 2021 is its 70th year anniversary. There are indeed strong reasons for highlighting these relations. Just consider the following:

  • Netherlands has consistently been among the top five investor countries in the Philippines historically, thus Dutch businesses are crucial for the Philippine economy;
  • 22,000 Filipino seafarers are onboard Dutch-flag vessels that ply the waters of the world, making Filipinos the biggest single nationality group in the vast Dutch merchant marine fleet
  • Both the Philippines and the Netherlands are maritime countries, and perhaps we can learn from the Dutch, most of whose land have been reclaimed from the sea. This knowledge is crucial in these times of rising sea levels and climate change
  • And going back to history, to the Spanish colonial times, while the Spaniards in Manila were apprehensive when seeing Dutch ships, similar vessels were much welcomed in Cotabato in the then Sultanate of Maguindanao as they were there for trade and commerce 

But I would be getting ahead of myself and of this webinar, and it’s better to hear about all these from the impressive line-up of resource persons – from government,  business, the academe and other sectors – in the course of today and tomorrow.

Suffice it for me to say that we are fortunate to have had the strong partnerships of a number of key entities in preparing for this webinar.

First, the Ateneo de Manila University, particularly its European Studies Program, the first entity we asked for support, which was equally enthusiastic. Thanks for ensuring that we have substance and academic rigor in this webinar;

Also, salamat po to Ambassador Saskia de Lang and her team at the Dutch Embassy in Manila for their whole-hearted support to this project. Tending to the bilateral relations is less challenging because of Ambassador Saskia’s helping hand at the Manila-end.

And certainly, dank u wel to our friends from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, notably Director Karin Mossenlechner and Strategic Policy Advisor Mark Versteden, who are here with us in person at the Philippine Embassy.

And also to the Foreign Service Institute and many others who lent valuable support.

A two-session webinar is certainly not enough to cover all the key aspects of the relations, but in my view we have a good mix of policy makers and subject matter experts who can share key information, ideas and insights about both countries and the relations, including people-to-people engagements, which we – including the students with us  – will be delighted to know and can benefit from. And with deeper understanding of and focus on the relations, those of us in government and the private sector can be guided in hopefully framing a workable roadmap for the future of the relations.

My embassy team and I hope that the webinar will contribute to forging a stronger bilateral partnership, even as we look forward to the next 70 years of productively working together.

I wish everyone an insightful and engaging webinar.

Manila, the Philippines.

Ambassador J Eduardo Malaya ‘s welcome remarks on day two of the webinar.

In my opening remarks yesterday, I expressed optimistic about the bilateral relations and its future. The presentations and discussions that followed affirmed that view.

But to be candid, I am more excited about today’s session. As someone who occasionally dabbles in and find joy in writing on law, history and other subjects, I am excited to know more about the cultural dimensions of the relations, specially the early interactions between Filipinos and the Dutch. Today, more than even before, culture plays a vital role in international relations. Cultural engagements provide us the chance to appreciate points of commonality and, where there are differences, to understand the motivations and humanity that underlie them. As one will learn from today’s session, our two peoples share much in common despite belonging to different corners of the world.

The other reason for my excitement is that this morning we will launch a compendium of the agreements between our two countries.

The book Crossroads: A Compendium of Agreements between the Philippines and the Netherlands, 1951 to 2021 is a chronicle of the work that we have done together in the past years. It is important to document the past and present works because it is only by building upon them that we can achieve more. Proost! Mabuhay! Salamat po!

Foreign Affairs Secretary Mr Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr and Secretary-General Paul Huijts of The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs also addressed the festive online gathering.

 In his keynote address, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. stated that “the Philippines is committed to re-energizing its relationship with The Netherlands, with emphasis on economic cooperation, and special focus on the agri-food, water and infrastructure; the circular economy; and maritime and healthcare sectors “. Secretary Teodoro went on to say,

“The Netherlands’ renewed foreign policy interest in the Indo-Pacific region is a positive development, particularly its commitment to sustainable trade and investment relations, to reducing one-sided strategic dependencies, to establish more reliable value chains in the Indo-Pacific region and to provide active support for EU negotiations on free trade agreements with Indo-Pacific countries,” Secretary Locsin added. “We are hopeful that this will further expand business-to-business engagements between the private sectors of our countries.” 

The Philippines recently assumed its role as country coordinator of the ASEAN-EU relations up to 2025, and it will give greater significance to bilateral initiatives.

For his part, Secretary General Paul Huijts of The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs  remarked :

“the strength of our countries’ economic ties are shown by the fact that the Netherlands is the second biggest EU trading partner of the Philippines and the biggest EU investor in the Philippines, and more recently, sustainability has become a key element for our bilateral cooperation.” He cited the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Masterplan as a result of the collaboration of Dutch and Filipino experts on sustainability and water management. 

Secretary General Huijts also noted the contributions of some 150 Dutch companies operating in the Philippines, adding that “at the same time, the Netherlands have welcomed many Overseas Filipino workers, including some 22,000 Filipino seafarers who sail on Dutch flagged vessels and help keep the global economy moving.”

The Netherlands’ Indo Pacific guidelines and the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy “underscore the growing importance of the Indo Pacific region in which the Philippines is a strategic player,” Secretary General Huijts said. “As a seafaring nation, we take a particular interest in freedom of passage and other topical issues in the region.” 

With the theme “Philippines-Netherlands Connections @ 70: Reconstructing History and Forging Ahead,” the first day of the two-day webinar drew a large and diverse audience in both countries, including government officials, business leaders, community members, and students. 

Ambassador Karin Mossenlechner, Director for Asia and Pacific in the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs expounded on the Dutch Indo-Pacific Guidelines and the implications of this policy shift for the Philippines. “The Netherlands and the EU are aware that the geopolitical and geo-economic balance of power in the world is shifting. The Indo-Pacific region is increasingly becoming more strategically important for the EU. It is important that The Netherlands and the Philippines, and the countries in the Indo-Pacific, join hands and work together in bringing about a sustainable post-Covid-19 recovery with green growth.”

Ambassador De Lang stated that “the future of The Netherlands and the Philippines is all about hope — as we are celebrating the 70 years of diplomatic relations, we are celebrating our joint future and we are renewing our bilateral vows.”

Other panelists of the first-day session included Professor Alvin Ang of the Ateneo de Manila University, Mr. Mitchel Smolders of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Philippine Consul General, a.h. in Rotterdam Albert Bos; Dr. Mary Ann Sayoc of the Philippine Seed Industry Association; and Mr. Richard van der Maden of AgriTerra. 

The second-day session “Reconstructing Historical Ties” will be held on10 November, and will focus on the historical foundations of the relations.

The two-day webinar was hosted by the Embassy of the Philippines in The Hague, in partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Manila, the   Philippine Foreign Service and the Ateneo de Manila University.

Kudos to the organizers for hosting such an outstanding webinar, it has been a demonstration of the excellent ongoing cooperation between the Philippines and the Netherlands. Salamat po !

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