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Philippine Delegation to the 125th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)  in front of the Swiss Parliament in Berne, 16 October 2011.  From L to R: Amb. Evan Garcia, Senator Franklin Drilon, Senator Gregorio Honasan, Cong. Mylene Garcia-Albano, Amb. Leslie J. Baja, Senator Vicente Sotto, Cong. Victor Ortega,  and  Cong. Rodel Batocabe.

Philippine and Swiss Democracies at Work
in 125th IPU Assembly in Berne

Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland Leslie Baja reported that the 125th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was opened on 16 October in Berne by Swiss President Micheline Calmy Rey and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.  Mrs Calmy Rey said that the IPU has a role to play in finding solutions to problems faced by the international community.  For his part, Mr Ban urged parliamentarians to help restore trust of their citizens in the wake of the global financial crisis and other problems confronting the world.

The meeting, which is being hosted by the Swiss parliament, is being attended by close to 1,400 delegates from 140 parliaments.  The Philippine Congress is represented by 4 senators (Vicente Sotto as head of delegation, Franklin Drilon, Gregorio Honasan and Panfilo Lacson) and 5 congressmen (Victor Ortega as lead House delegate, Georgina de Venecia, Mylene Garcia-Albano, Nelson Collantes and Rodel Batocabe).  

Agenda of the IPU include nuclear disarmament, Middle East and North Africa, regulation of the financial markets, global governance, access to health care for women and children and the green economy.  This is the 4th time that the IPU in its 122 year history is holding its assembly in Berne.  The first was in 1892 and the last one in 1952.  The Philippines has been an active participant in the IPU and hosted in 2005 the IPU Assembly in Manila.

In welcoming the senators and congressmen to Berne, Ambassador Baja noted that Switzerland is one of the oldest democracies in the world and the Philippines is the oldest in Asia.  He expressed the hope that the Philippine participation will result in greater linkages between these two democracies given that they share values of democracy, human rights, justice and rule of law.

The Philippines and Switzerland have warm and close relations highlighted by these shared democratic values.  Official ties between the Philippines and Switzerland started almost 150 years ago in 1862 with the opening of the first Swiss consular representation in Manila.  Diplomatic relations were established on 30 August 1956 or 55 years ago.  Since then, relations have prospered with over 60 Swiss companies doing business in the Philippines with over USD 2 billion in investments and annual trade of about USD500 million.

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