PHL, Belgium affix initials on plan of action for bilateral relations

February 2, 2011 11:00 am 

MANILA, Feb. 2 — The Philippines and Belgium recently initialed a plan of action which is considered an important step in identifying their mutual fields of interests and enhance bilateral cooperation, according to the Philippine Embassy in Brussels.

The plan also calls for the two countries to work together on common interests in multilateral fora such as the United Nations and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

The document, “Joint Plan of Action (JPA) in the Fields of Mutual Interest Between the Philippines and Belgium,” was initialed following tough negotiations between Philippine Ambassador Enrique Manalo and Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director for Asia Ambassador Philippe Beke.

At the same time, the embassy said the Philippines and Belgium are currently negotiating bilateral agreements on mutual legal assistance and transfer of sentenced persons.

The JPA is the first agreement of its kind to be negotiated with Belgium in the 65 years of Philippine diplomatic relations with this country and the first in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the embassy pointed out.

The proposed signing of the JPA is set for February 23 in Brussels between Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere.

“I believe the plan of action provides an opportunity and basis for the Philippines and Belgium to work closely together in addressing practical challenges we face such as the need to enhance our trade and investment cooperation, the need to address concerns on immigration, consular matters, law enforcement, and sports and culture,” Ambassador Manalo said.

“This plan of action will give our respective governments an excellent framework for building a strategic partnership in the years to come,” he added. <P>Manalo expressed confidence that the agreement will boost overall bilateral relations with Belgium.

Belgium is the Philippines’ 18th largest trading partner and the third biggest export destination of the Philippines (valued at US9.8 million) in the European Union, next to The Netherlands and Germany.

In terms of foreign direct investments, Belgium is a major European investor and one of the largest sources of development assistance especially humanitarian assistance in response to both natural and man-made disasters.

An agreement is also being proposed for energy and environment which seeks to boost private sector involvement especially in investments in infrastructures.

Both countries have also exchanged economic missions over many years which have strengthened trade cooperation and increased investments in various sectors.

The JPA also takes into account the areas of competence of the respective national governments and the regional governments in Belgium. (PNA) DCT/LDV/GJB

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