10 Dec 2004
1. I appreciate President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's kind invitation and the generous hospitality extended to my delegation and me. First I would like to express my condolences to the victims and families of the recent tropical storms that affected the Philippines recently. The President had earlier briefed me on the situation. I believe that the Philippine people, as they have always done, will demonstrate courage and determination in the face of adversity.
2. Singapore and the Philippines are old friends. Close ties at the leadership level have been an important aspect of the bilateral ties between our two countries. Since becoming PM in August, I have had the pleasure of interacting with President Arroyo on several occasions - at the ASEM Summit in Hanoi in October, at the APEC Leaders' Meeting in Santiago last month and most recently, at the 10th ASEAN Summit in Vientiane. But I am glad that today I am meeting President Arroyo here in Manila.
3. President Arroyo and I had good discussions earlier on the Singapore-Philippines bilateral relationship. The cooperation between our two countries is progressing steadily. There is good cooperation across a range of sectors such as IT, education and infrastructure development. Over the last six years, the Philippines-Singapore Action Plan (PSAP) has been a useful mechanism. Under this umbrella, Singapore is happy to share our experiences and expertise in areas which the Philippines may find useful. The PSAP also provides a valuable opportunity for our officials to meet their Philippine counterparts, exchange experiences and explore potential areas for further collaboration.
4. One additional area of co-operation is civil aviation. This morning, I also discussed with the President on the possibility of strengthening our air linkages, and how we can take advantage of the emergence of Low Cost Carriers. We don't just need broad band width for IT services; we now also need broad band width for our people exchanges. And with people exchanges come deeper understanding, more trade and investments, and closer economic and cultural ties.
5. Another valuable forum is the Philippines-Singapore Business Council (PSBC), a private sector-driven initiative. Since it was established in 1994, the Council has met annually, most recently in Cebu last month. I understand that the PSBC is discussing various proposals to promote business process outsourcing, infocomm technology, logistics, lifestyle services and even possible business collaboration in third countries. This will help our economic ties.
6. Bilateral trade is growing well. Singapore is the Philippines' third largest trading partner, with total trade in 2003 reaching almost US$5 billion. We are on track to registering record levels in trade volume for 2004. More Singapore businesses have set up in the Philippines. I am told that a well-known Singapore bakery outlet, Breadtalk, recently opened a second outlet in a shopping mall in Makati.
7. Apart from bilateral relations, President Arroyo and I also discussed regional trends and issues. The war against terrorism, ASEAN economic integration and attracting foreign investments to Southeast Asia are some note-worthy issues. My sense is that Singapore and the Philippines share similar views on many of these issues, and we are working together to tackle these challenges.
8. Overall, I found our exchange of views this morning to be constructive and useful.