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PH envoy: Singapore is steadfast partner in defense, trade, tourism.

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

SINGAPORE -- The Philippines' top diplomat here has declared that the Philippines is not only enjoying a robust bilateral relationship with Singapore in terms of trade and investment, but also in defense, cybersecurity, and tourism.

Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap said this as President Duterte is scheduled to visit Singapore for the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on Friday and Saturday.

Yap said that Singapore has been one of the country's partners in counter-terrorism and cybersecurity, noting that it has provided the Philippines with assistance during the five-month siege in Marawi City last year.

"Singapore is one of our steadfast partners in terms of counter-terrorism and cybersecurity. Actually, during the Marawi siege, they provided us with assistance and is open to additional assistance if the Philippines will request for it," he said.

"They have provided their training facilities. They have opened their training facilities and we sent, I think, 40 or 50 soldiers to train here already in terms of urban warfare because the Marawi siege was a different situation than what we were used to," he said.

Tourism

According to Yap, there is a huge difference in the number of Filipino tourists coming to Singapore compared to the number of Singaporean tourists visiting the Philippines.

"Already, roughly 200,000 Singaporeans travel to the Philippines every year as tourists, whereas, about 500,000 Filipinos come to Singapore. But of course, that means we can still try to improve that balance and try to get more Singaporeans to visit the Philippines," he said.

Yap said that since the Department of Tourism (DOT) does not have an attache in Singapore, the Embassy tries to promote the Philippines through the help of Filipino partners such as airlines.

He said that for this year, the Embassy is planning to have a tourism fair that will specifically promote the Philippines to Singaporeans.

"We can still try to improve that balance and try to get more Singaporeans to visit the Philippines. And I think that with additional emphasis on more tourism fairs, more cooperation with the travel agents in Singapore, and maybe, more direct flights to the Philippines, we can easily bring up the number of Singaporean tourists," Yap said.

Trade and investment

Yap said that Singapore is the Philippines' biggest trading partner in ASEAN, noting that there is approximately US$10 billion of trade between the two countries.

He noted that Singapore is also the biggest source of OFW remittances wherein the Philippines receives about US$1.75 billion remittances from Singapore every year.

"The relationship that we have with Singapore in terms of investment and trade is I think quite close and getting even closer. We receive the most amount of investment from them," Yap said.

"Most of these investments are in fact done through joint ventures. So there are many companies, several companies in the Philippines that have joint ventures with Singaporean companies," he added.

As a result of working closely together in joint ventures, Yap said the two countries are learning from each other.

"The Singaporean companies learn how to do business in the Philippines within our environment and then the Philippine companies learn also the way how the Singaporean does business. Singapore actually is quite successful in its business practices so we can learn from them," he said.

He added that more Philippine companies are investing in Singapore, including real estate and banking. He also said that more Philippine products are now being sold in Singapore supermarkets.

But despite all these, Yap said Singapore is still looking for more opportunities in the Philippines.

"They have been asking about different business opportunities. There are different companies that they can talk to, that we can introduce to them so they can discuss possible business opportunities and this will not only be limited to big companies but I think more and more even the small and medium enterprises of Singapore are looking for opportunities to expand," he said.

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Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap (Photo courtesy of DFA / MANILA BULLETIN)
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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Apr 26, 2018
Words:679
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