The Philippines and Hungary strengthened their economic ties as the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation (JCECJ) resulted in agreements forged and cooperation activities conducted, particularly in the areas of water technologies, agriculture, information and communication technologies, among others, according to an official of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
In a statement released on Monday, the Trade department said DTI Undersecretary Allan B. Gepty and Hungarian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Levente Magyar highlighted the significant progress achieved under the 5th Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation (JCEC) mechanism.
In terms of inward investments, DTI said the Philippines sees opportunities in Hungary’s expertise in agriculture, information and communication technologies, digital technologies, and water technologies as well as the Philippines’ key industries, such as renewable energy, green metals, electric vehicle manufacturing, and smart and high-tech light manufacturing.
The Trade department highlighted that this was further demonstrated during the business forum held on the sidelines of the JCEC wherein at least 60 Hungarian companies engaged in agribusiness, electronics, water treatment and supply, IT solutions, healthcare, shipbuilding, renewable energy, smart solutions and human resources/recruitment participated.
In the area of water treatment, DTI revealed that Hungary reaffirmed its readiness to offer a “tied aid loan” of $33 million to the Philippines to finance social infrastructure projects related to water management, such as the Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project (PMNP) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The said project aims to provide “interventions for communities to access clean and safe drinking water,” DTI noted.
On education, the two sides highlighted the “great interest and uptake” of Filipino scholars of Stipendium Hungaricum—a fully sponsored scholarship program offered by the Hungarian government to 35 Filipino students every year in courses such as agriculture and sustainable development, medicine, water management engineering and hydrology, architecture and protection of cultural heritage, natural sciences, and environment sciences, among others.
According to DTI, both countries also look forward to implementing the Memorandum of Understanding on Vocational Education and Training (VET) signed in 2022.
Meanwhile, updates on agriculture-related partnerships were also discussed during the said economic cooperation between the two countries.
DTI said these include the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ (MATE) extensive collaboration with various universities, colleges and research institutions in the Philippines as well as with the Philippine Department of Agriculture in aquaculture development, landscape design, urban planning and architecture, rice cultivation and waste management.
Apart from these, both sides lauded their ongoing cooperation on labor, which resulted in “concrete outcomes” as the number of Filipino workers in Hungary has already reached 9,000, which DTI said has expectations to increase further given Hungary’s continued strong interest in hiring Filipinos in the field of agriculture, services, transportation and trucking industries as well as health care.
MFAT’s Deputy State Secretary for External Economic Relations Katalin Bihari cited that Filipino workers are known for their excellent linguistic ability, high quality of work, and reliability. She added that Hungary would make every effort for this cooperation to continue.
“The conduct of the 5th JCEC meeting comes at an opportune time as the Philippines and Hungary celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations, which also demonstrate a clear manifestation of their commitment to pursue mutual prosperity,” DTI said.
Further, the Trade department noted that new and prospective cooperation activities in energy, science, technology, and innovation, integrated circuit (IC) design, space science and technology, environment, health, and transportation will “position the two economies for greater heights.”
For his part, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said, “The Philippine government looks forward to our continued partnership with Hungary as we work towards a science, technology and innovation [STI] driven economy. With the country’s enabling business environment, we encourage Hungary to make it happen in the Philippines!”
DTI said merchandise trade between the Philippines and Hungary amounted to $189.84 million in 2022, displaying an increasing trend since 2020 when trade momentarily declined coinciding with the pandemic year.
Likewise, exports and imports showed an increasing trend, indicating the potential to further improve current levels, which would benefit businesses of both countries, the agency noted.
Among the 27 European Union (EU) Member-States, Hungary ranked as the Philippines’ seventh top export market and 15th top Generalized System of Preference Plus export market in 2022.