PAKISTAN gained independence on August 14, 1947, just 11 months after sovereign powers were transferred to the newly restored independent Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946.
Diplomatic relations between our two countries were established on September 8, 1949, and the Philippines Consulate was opened in Karachi.
Since then Pakistan and the Philippines enjoyed very close and cordial relations. There exists commonality of views on various regional and international issues, which has led to close cooperation in the regional and international forums. The best thing is that our relations are free of any irritants. This year marks the 66th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and the Republic of the Philippines. During this period the bilateral relations between our two countries have flourished in diverse fields.
Even before the establishment of diplomatic relations, our bilateral cooperation had already begun. Hence, on July 16, 1949, the two countries signed an air-service agreement. To cement friendly relations further the two countries, on January 3, 1951, jointly ratified a treaty of friendship in Washington, D.C., signed on behalf of their governments by their ambassadors to the US. The treaty inter alia ensured “perpetual peace and everlasting unity between the two countries and their people.”
In 1954 both the countries joined the US, the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand in setting up the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (Seato). The treaty was signed on September 8, 1954, in Manila and became operative in February 1955.
Seato signified a pledge by the signatories to provide mutual aid in case of armed attack or subversion. It provided the two countries significant assurances that they have friends on their side and brought the two countries closer.
There had been high level exchanges between the two countries since the beginning.
• In May 1957 Prime Minister Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy visited the Philippines. The visit led to the elevation of the Philippines legation in Karachi to an embassy.
• Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo in May 1988.
• Prime Minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto on February 17 and 18 in 1995.
• President Musharraf visited Manila from April 18 to 20 in 2005.
From the Philippines President Diosdado Macapagal paid a visit to Pakistan in July 1962. Incidentally, he was accompanied by teenager daughter Gloria, who eventually became president of the Philippines in 2001.
President Fidel V. Ramos visited Pakistan in 1997.
Apart from these there had been a number of visits at ministerial and working levels. The leaders of the two countries had also been meeting each other on the sidelines of meetings in international and regional forums.
The Fourth Round of Policy Consultation Talk between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan and the Philippines was held in Manila in January 2015. The two sides reviewed Pakistan-Philippines relations and expressed satisfaction at the continued growth of mutually beneficial cooperation in diverse fields, including trade, commerce and other spheres. Both sides reiterated their commitment to further intensify cooperation in the fields of culture, tourism, trade, education and science and technology, and promote people-to-people contacts. We also agreed on the need for greater interaction between the private sectors.
So far 22 agreements and MOUs have been finalized between the two countries and many more are in the pipeline. These include trade agreement, cultural exchange agreement, agreement on avoidance of double taxation, agreement on promotion and protection of investment, cooperation agreement between the two chambers, agreement to establish a joint economic commission, so on and so forth. In short, the two countries have signed almost all the agreements that can help establish a very strong and progressive cooperation between the two countries.
Bilateral trade between our two countries is close to $100 million. Of this, Pakistan’s export are close to $61.7 million and the Philippines’s exports close to $33.6 million.
Major items of exports from Pakistan:
• Textiles, rice, pharmaceutical products, leather hides, fruits, sport goods and surgical instruments.
The items of exports from the Philippines:
• Automotive parts, paper products, food preparations, electronics and packaging materials.
This shows that our bilateral trade has a very narrow base, which needs to be broadened. Efforts are under way to further enhance and diversify our bilateral trade.
In this regard a trade delegation from Pakistan visited the Philippines in August last year and held useful discussions with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other private businessmen. An invitation has now been extended to PCC&I to undertake a visit to Pakistan. Regular exchanges between the two sides will help enhance our bilateral trade.
There is very minimal investment from two sides. Pakistan offers very lucrative terms for foreign investments in almost all the sectors. These include power and energy, agriculture, mining and gems, infrastructure, construction, information technology and Telecom, textiles and automotive, etc.
Foreign investors are allowed repatriation of 100-percent profit, capital and dividends. one hundred-percent foreign equity is allowed both in the manufacturing and nonmanufacturing sectors. Tax relief is extended to foreign investors.
There is a small but energetic Pakistan; community resident in the Philippines, not exceeding 1,400. These include professionals, businessmen and students, etc. A considerable number of them are working in the Asian Development Bank. Likewise, there are about 3,000 Filipino women, mostly working for international organizations in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and other major cities of Pakistan. Both the communities act as a bridge between the two countries and are a contributing factor toward further strengthening our bilateral relations.