By Jenina P. Ibañez

DUBAI — The Philippines is allocating P300 million to build a pavilion at the Dubai World Expo, which is scheduled to open in 2020.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters prior to the media launch here on Thursday that this is a “modest” budget compared to the US and Canada which are spending around P2 billion each on their respective pavilions.

“’Yung experts sa private sector — sina Royal Pineda — the architecture treatment, it’s very creative but not costly,” he said, referring to architect Royal L. Pineda whose firm Budji + Royal Architecture + Design won the bid to design the project.

The three-year budget up to 2021 — including forward estimates — for pavilion design, construction, installations, and management is P520 million.

The estimated cost of the pavilion structure represents 63% of the overall budget for the Philippine participation at the Dubai World Expo.

The 3,000-square meter Philippine pavilion is part of the six-month event that is expected to attract 25 million visitors. There will be 192 country pavilions.

Unlike international trade expos, the World Expo is an “image-promotion” event instead of a direct product-selling event.

“It’s an image promotion… the show of technology, heritage, may (there is) modern Philippines and the culture, the art. It’s a combination,” Mr. Lopez said.

The Philippines will showcase its goods in designated food and product areas.

“We can imagine all the interesting products the Philippines would sell to the world. So you have of course the food, chocolates, a lot of agri[cultural products such as], coconut-based, for example mangoes — those that we’re known for,” Mr. Lopez added.

The pavilion, featuring the “Bangkota” or coral reef theme, will use wire mesh instead of hard structure.

Mr. Pineda, the architect behind the pavilion’s design, said in an interview prior to the groundbreaking event that the Philippines will also make use of the resources and technologies of Dubai, collaborating with local steel contractors.

While using less costly materials, Mr. Pineda described it as “practical luxury.”

“Filipinos can be living in luxury by design… we are not here to compete, we are here to present ourselves truthfully,” he added.

He said that the pavilion will feature the natural resources and marine biodiversity of the Philippines, its pre-colonial origins, and its peoples’ migration. Following Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony, the pavilion is expected to be completed in August 2020.

The Dubai World Expo, which is designed to showcase “the achievements of nations,” is being held in the Middle East for the first time. It will open in October 2020.

Mr. Lopez said that the Philippines’ participation recognizes the more than 700,000 Filipinos working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“At first we wanted lower cost, smaller space. But we were prodded upon by the organizer to use a bigger space considering the bigger contribution of Filipinos among all overseas workers in the UAE economy,” Mr. Lopez said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The project contractor had hired Filipino workers, Mr. Lopez said, more than half of whom earn bigger salaries and do more technical work than other workers.

The Philippine organizing committee is chaired by the DTI, in collaboration with the Department of Tourism and other government agencies.

The pavilion will be permanently mounted in Clark after the expo.