THE Philippines and Israel said they formed a Joint Economic Commission (JEC) that will explore pathways to improving trade.

In a statement on Thursday, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Israel Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai in Jerusalem on June 7 that created the JEC.

“The MoU seeks the establishment of a bilateral consultative mechanism that will develop and strengthen trade, enhance investments, and advance economic ties between the Philippines and Israel,” the DTI said.

“In establishing a JEC, the two countries agree to exchange information on economic issues, identify and implement cooperative projects, organize consultations, missions, and official visits and enhance cooperation and linkages with their respective private sector,” it added.

The DTI said the MoU will seek to explore industries where the two countries can collaborate with a view towards diversifying trade and investments.

He added that priority sectors for promotion include agribusiness/agriculture production, energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy, infrastructure and public-private partnership (PPP) projects in infrastructure, real estate development, logistics, artificial intelligence, information technology and business process management (IT-BPM) including shared services, electronics manufacturing, and digital infrastructure.

Mr. Lopez told reporters via Viber that the initial investments from the investment promotion and protection agreement (IPPA) between the Philippines and Israel could bring around $150 million in investment in 2022.

“Early harvest could be around $150 million this year,” Mr. Lopez said.

Also signed on June 7, the IPPA provides the framework for a closer investment relationship between Israel and Philippines. It also specifies investment protection elements such as national treatment, most favored nation treatment, free transfers, rules-based expropriation and compensation, and investor-state dispute settlement.

The DTI also recently signed an MoU seeking to strengthen cooperation with the Israel Innovation Authority.

Mr. Lopez also disclosed that the DTI has received letters of intent from Israeli investors engaged in agribusiness, software development, and IT-BPM, while receiving inquiries on food and beverage production, satellite imaging, and water desalination and treatment. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave