THE PHILIPPINES will pursue more collaboration with India in affordable healthcare and agriculture, thereby boosting trade between both countries this year, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique A. Manalo said on Tuesday.

“Development cooperation, agriculture, food security, affordable healthcare, and infrastructure, remain high on our shared development agenda,” Mr. Manalo said in a speech in Pasay City following his meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

The two ministers had discussed mechanisms to conduct trade between their two countries as well as progress in negotiations on a bilateral preferential trade agreement.

Philippine exports to India hit $1.1 billion (P56.34 billion) last year, according to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database.

“While this is undoubtedly good progress, current data indicates that we still have over half a billion dollars of unrealized export potential to India,” Mr. Manalo said, adding that he is pushing for increased trade between Southeast Asia and India.

On tourism, Mr. Manalo said the Philippines may resort to giving high priority to Indian travelers in the DFA’s electronic visa system project, which is currently being fine-tuned.

“We are moving ahead on quick impact projects in agriculture, health and capacity building,” Mr. Jaishankar said at the same venue.

“Indian companies have been active here as much in the digital infrastructure as in the physical one and there is considerable interest in the Indian corporate sector in stepping that up.”

He also cited the continued supply of rice from India as a sign of “growing comfort and trust” between both countries.

In October, India gave the Philippines a quota of 295,000 MT of non-basmati white rice, after imposing restrictions on exporting the grain to assure the sufficiency of domestic supply.

The Philippines also seeks more technology-based partnerships with India which could also develop the country’s financial technology industry, Mr. Manalo said.

“We have also taken note of India’s significant successes in science and technology, space and financial technology, particularly on financial inclusivity,” he said. “We are keen to begin closer cooperation in this regard.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez