By Joe Avancena
DAMMAM – The GCC countries and the Philippines agreed to launch major economic cooperation that will set the pace for stronger long-term relations between the Philippines and the six regional states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman.
The areas of key cooperation between the Philippines and the GCC were decided upon last week following the visit of Abdulrahim Hasan Naqi, Secretary General of the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry, to Manila. Naqi was received by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Malacañang Palace and held discussions with her on wide-ranging issues of economic cooperation.
The Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry supports all the major chambers of commerce and industry in GCC countries, as well as the private business sectors in the region.
Naqi also held meetings with members of the Philippines cabinet, including Peter B. Favila, Secretary of Trade and Industry; Marianito D. Roque, Secretary of Labor and Employment; and Special Envoy to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Amable R. Aguiluz V.
“President Arroyo expressed during our meeting her desire to expand cooperation with the GCC in all areas, particularly in the sectors of trade, investment, and labor,” Naqi said. Naqi was accompanied in his visit to Manila by Philippine Labor Attache’ to Bahrain Alejando S. Santos and Bahraini business leader Jassim Al-Majed. Naqi said the Philippines agreed to pursue the following areas of economic cooperation with the GCC.
- Expansion of cooperation between the private business sectors of the Philippines and the six GCC states. A memorandum of understanding and cooperation will be signed between the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).
- Investment of GCC in agriculture projects in the Philippines through joint ventures, particularly in the production of rice, corn, livestock, poultry, and crops, such as, bananas and pineapples.
- Increase the bilateral trade between the Philippines and the GCC countries. The recorded 20 percent increase in bilateral trade, according to Naqi is still insignificant considering the wide array of exportable products from the Philippines and the similar quantity of export products from the GCC.
- Increase Philippine exports of halal food to the Gulf region by setting up cooperative ventures in the production of halal products in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao.
- In the financial sector, the GCC will introduce Islamic banking in the Philippines through the facilities of GCC Islamic banks, which will establish fully-owned GCC Islamic banks or set up partnerships with local banks.
- Enhance and expand the Philippine tourist trade with the GCC countries by setting up Philippine tourism bureaus in the region in cooperation with local tourism organizations. Tourism infrastructures, sites of interests, and incentives to GCC tourists will also be packaged in order to encourage the flow of tourists from the Gulf region.
Increase the deployment of highly qualified Filipino workers to the six GCC states, particularly professionals, engineers, and skilled technicians.