“The Philippines is enjoying not only freedom but also prosperity,” Ambassador Raul Hernandez said at a reception in Seoul on Thursday marking the 120th anniversary of the Philippines’ declaration of independence from colonial Spain.
“Last year, amid global uncertainty, the Philippine economy registered an impressive gross domestic product growth rate of 6.7 percent, being the world’s 10th-fastest growing economy, according to the World Bank.”
|Philippine Ambassador to Korea Raul Hernandez (third from left) participates in a cake-cutting ceremony beside his spouse Ana Hernandez, Korean Deputy Minister for Political Affairs Yoon Soon-gu (second from left), Korean Deputy Minister for Planning and Coordination Suh Jeong-in (second from right) and dignitaries at a reception in Seoul on Thursday, which marked the 120th anniversary of the Philippines’ declaration of independence. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)|
He added that the International Monetary Fund had forecast that the Philippines’ GDP growth rate would rise to 7 percent next year, becoming the second-fastest growing economy in the world by 2019.
These high growth rates were possible on the back of the far-reaching nationwide infrastructure program, “Build, Build, Build,” in which some $170 billion is expected to be invested, the diplomat noted.
Supported by comprehensive tax reform, he argued, the 75 projects under the initiative will increase the national economy’s productive capacity, create jobs, boost incomes and make the economy more attractive to foreign investments.
“These accomplishments can be attributed to the vision of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to effect transformative changes in the Philippine society and economy,” Hernandez stressed. “Duterte’s efforts to form a more law-abiding society, his constant focus on fighting corruption and criminality as well as the contributions and support of our international partners are indispensable to achieving inclusive economic growth and prosperity.”
Turning to relations with South Korea -- 69 years in the making officially since the two nations established diplomatic ties in 1949 -- the ambassador said the two-way relationship has blossomed in politics, defense and security, trade and investment, development, education, tourism and people-to-people exchanges.
“As encapsulated in the saying, ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed,’ I believe our friendship is really special,” said Yoon Soon-gu, Korean deputy minister for political affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Korea has built close relations with the Philippines over the years. In fact, the Philippines is our longest standing friend among the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.”
|Philippine Ambassador to Korea Raul Hernandez (center, front row) poses with foreign ambassadors at a reception in Seoul on Thursday, which marked the 120th anniversary of the Philippines’ declaration of independence. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)|
Noting that Manila was the first Southeast Asian country to establish diplomatic relations with Seoul, Yoon also thanked Filipinos for dispatching their young men to the 1950-53 Korean War to protect South Korea from North Korean aggression.
As the first Asian country to participate in the war on the Korean Peninsula, the Philippines sent an initial batch of 1,468 troops -- the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea -- who arrived here in August 1950. The unit was the Philippine Army contingent of the United Nations forces, the fifth-largest force under the United Nations Command. The PEFTOK took part in the Battle of Yultong and the Battle of Hill Eerie, operating with the United States 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Division, and 45th Infantry Division.
They -- some 7,500 in total during the entirety of the war -- protected South Korea through 1955. Over 110 Filipino soldiers are estimated to have lost their lives from the conflict later known as “the Forgotten War,” with some 400 wounded, including those permanently disfigured and damaged mentally.
“Looking back, the Philippines has been a real friend, always willing to extend a helping hand whenever Korea was in need,” said Yoon. “Thanks to the invaluable sacrifice of the young Filipinos, we could defend our precious country during the Korean War, overcome difficulties and finally succeed in rebuilding our nation from scratch.”
Currently, Korea is the sixth-largest source of official development assistance to the Philippines. Helped by 27 daily flights between the two countries, the Southeast Asian archipelago nation is a popular tourist destination for Koreans, with over 1.6 million of them visiting there last year.
Over 68,000 Filipino migrants now live in Korea, while over 93,000 Koreans reside in the Philippines.
“Our deep trust and friendship is well exemplified by the fact that Korea accounts for the greatest number of visitors to the Philippines and our trade volume has exceeded $10 billion since 2010,” the deputy minister added.
By Joel Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)