Gov’t signs bilateral agreements with Qatar

Posted on April 11, 2012

FOUR BILATERAL agreements and one private sector initiative were signed yesterday between the Philippine government and the state of Qatar as witnessed by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III and Qatari Emir His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, a Palace aide announced.

Upon his arrival in the Philippines late yesterday afternoon, the Emir immediately proceeded to Malacañang at 5:30 p.m. for a courtesy call with President Aquino.

The two leaders then proceeded to the Ramos Room, where the following agreements were signed:

• a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will “create favorable conditions for long-term cooperation in tourism for the mutual benefit of the Philippines and Qatar,” identifying fields of cooperation such as marketing and promotions, private sector cooperation and tourism investments;

• an MoU on cooperation in the legal field that will encourage “the sharing of experiences and best practices in the performance of the mandates of each country’s respective ministry or department of justice,” entailing exchange of publications and visits of legal experts as well as the conduct of symposia and conferences;

• an MoU on agricultural and fisheries cooperation for the purpose of fostering sect oral development and enhancing agriculture-related trade and investment, tackling, among others, crops technology, vegetable and fruit preservation, biotechnology, post-harvest technology, livestock and fisheries, coastal and deep-sea fishing management, irrigation and water resources, and the halal industry;

• an MoU between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Government of the Republic and Qatar Holding Limited Liability Corporation concerning investment cooperation, in line with investment opportunities in the Philippines in various sectors including natural resources, commodities, energy, agriculture, infrastructure; and

• a private sector agreement on the establishment of joint business council (JBC) between the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Qatari Chamber of Commerce and Industry, “in order to carry out more systematically business promotional activities in trade, investment, technology transfer, services and other industrial sectors.

The proposed JBC, it was noted, will provide a regular and recognized forum for discussion on promotion of such activities between businessmen and industrialists of the Philippines and Qatar.

It is also expected to “facilitate continuous interaction and increase trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.”

Also part of the bilateral discussions was the possibility of the Middle Eastern country investing in the public-private partnership (PPP) program of the Philippines, another private sector agreement with property developer Century Properties Group still in the works, and increasing opportunities for the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The State of Qatar is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is the richest country in terms of gross domestic product per capita. Qatar is host to an estimated 175,000 overseas Filipino workers working in the country.

This is the first time that the Emir is visiting the Philippines, at the invitation of the President.

After their talk and the signing ceremony, the Emir thanked Mr. Aquino for the invitation, saying that he was happy to accept as he had previously attempted to visit several times before, but the trips did not push through.

“We had a good conversation... We discussed a lot of things which I hope is going to benefit both of our countries,” Mr. Al-Thani said.

For his part, Mr. Aquino said that the talks will redound to the benefit of the two states, particularly given what he views as an “opportune time” for the country.

“Potentials are really becoming realized rather than remaining in the potentials stage,” Mr. Aquino said.

On the side of the government, also present at the event were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario, Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo, Transport Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, and Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima.

A state dinner at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall was also held yesterday to mark the occasion. -- Johanna D. Poblete