Taipei, Dec. 14 (CNA) Philippines representative to Taiwan Wilfredo B. Fernandez said Tuesday that his work remains focused mainly on strengthening bilateral trade and investment, and he hopes to see his country become a stronger partner in Taiwan's development.
"I am extremely impressed with the technological advancements and level of quality with Taiwanese manufacturing, from [food] production to garments to high tech products," Fernandez said at a trade conference in Taipei. "Taiwan has indeed become a giant and a key player on the world stage."
He said that given the geographical proximity of the two countries, and other links, the Philippines would like to build deeper bilateral cooperation.
"We Filipinos wish not only to be your customers or even your factory workers, but we would like to be your partners in progress as a country, given we are ethnically related, as well as next door neighbors with only a tiny sea in between our borders," said Fernandez, chairman and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei.
Despite the economic slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fernandez said, he remains optimistic and is committed to prioritizing trade and investment between the Philippines and Taiwan.
According to recent Ministry of Labor data, there are some 117,000 Filipino migrant workers employed in Taiwan's production sector.
Meanwhile, in a surprise move, Philippines Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez joined the trade conference virtually, at Fernandez's invitation.
"Because of the strict policy, the top government officials are not supposed to speak before you, but we have broken the protocol, and Secretary Lopez will be speaking before you," Fernandez said in his introduction, without elaborating on the policy.
In Lopez's address to Taiwanese businesses representatives, he said that in the past five years, there has been a growing presence of Taiwanese companies in Philippines, particularly manufacturers and exporters of electronic products and components, metals, plastics, travel goods, and medical items.
With the Philippines serving as a significant link in the region, its exports of electronics products to Taiwan in the first half of the year soared 20 percent year-on-year," Lopez said.
"With these opportunities, we were able to realize the growth and objectives set forth in the New Southbound Policy initiatives of shared cooperation and collaboration, as you consider to make it happen in the Philippines," Lopez said.
Taiwan's New Southbound Policy calls for the development of comprehensive relations with ASEAN member states, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand, while promoting trade and cultural ties.