INDIA considers the health and technology sectors as the most likely areas of collaboration with Philippine companies, in the interest of broadening supply chains to reduce both countries’ vulnerability to disruption, India’s Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran said.

Speaking at the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) event last week, Mr. Kumaran said the pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities that must be addressed so both countries can “come through in similar situations in the future.”

“Countries like India and the Philippines should have supply-chain redundancy, meaning we should have options of more than one partner so that whenever there’s a disruption like we had in the pandemic, … we don’t have to struggle to find the things that we need,” Mr. Kumaran said. 

“The experience of dealing with something like COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) will remain very relevant, whether it’s a variant or a related kind of virus… these will remain important for the forthcoming years,” he said.

Mr. Kumaran added that collaboration “can happen through investment,” noting Indian interest in investing in the Philippines’ health and medical technology industries.

He said India is currently in talks with the Philippines to find ways to increase two-way trade, and identified tariffs as a key element in unlocking the potential of the trade relationship.

The ITEC program was reformatted to get around travel restrictions by making it more digital-oriented, becoming e-ITEC, through which it offered courses that had strong take-up from the Philippine side, including pandemic management, disaster management, documentation of cultural heritage, and environmental impact assessment.

Last month, a customized course was prepared for 33 Philippine government officials in consultation with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Department of Finance, and Department of Budget and Management.

For the upcoming year, Mr. Kumaran said India will offer 50 defense personnel training slots to the Philippines, the largest such allocation in Southeast Asia.

“India’s approach to development partnership is based on the principles of equity and mutual respect,” he said. “It is shaped by our belief that strengthening and augmenting national capacities are essential for bringing progress and prosperity for our people.”

Some 1,100 Filipinos have undergone ITEC training since the program’s launch in 1964.

“The dedication of ITEC in continuously improving the curricula and providing training to our countrymen is commendable. We appreciate it,” said TESDA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña at the event, noting the potential of sharing best practices for boosting the economy.

Labor and Employment Undersecretary Renato L. Ebarle noted the need for training channels offered by ITEC in the context of the radically altered labor market landscape in the wake of the pandemic.

“As more businesses shift from manual to digital, highly specialized to multi-disciplinary, the need for human resource capacity building to enable a digitally and multi-skilled labor force has been greatly emphasized,” he said. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan