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(Left Photo) Ambassador Leslie J. Baja with Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio, Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Buensuceso and Swiss Assistant State Secretary Beat Nobs, Head of the Swiss delegation
(Right Photo) The meeting was held at the Bernerhof in Berne  

PHL-Swiss consultations intensifies ties
in 150th year of relations

The 5th bilateral Political Consultations between the Philippines and Switzerland were held in Berne on 6 February 2012 as the two countries commemorate this year the 150th anniversary of the establishment in Manila of the first Swiss consulate in Asia in 1862.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio headed the Philippine delegation while Swiss Assistant State Secretary Beat Nobs led the Swiss side.  Both delegations highlighted the shared values of democracy and human rights and agreed to intensify economic relations through the establishment of a Joint Economic Commission and the possibility of entering into a Free Trade Agreement with the European Free Trade Area (EFTA).  A trade and investment mission is also being planned for 2013.

Undersecretary Basilio noted the healthy and excellent relations between the Philippines and Switzerland.  In 2011, Switzerland was the 10th largest export market for the Philippines in Europe with total first semester trade of USD277.3 million, the balance of which is on the PHL side.  There are about 60 Swiss companies in the Philippines with total investments valued at around USD2 billion.  Switzerland was also the 4th biggest source of inbound tourists from Europe in 2011.

Undersecretary Basilio thanked the Swiss side for its humanitarian assistance to the Philippines last December in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Washi.  Switzerland gave Swiss Francs 300,000 to aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of storm ravaged areas in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.  It also sent 6 water experts to the region to help restore clean water service to the affected population.  The Philippines presented a project proposal to the Swiss side that would help the Philippines in disaster risk reduction and management.

In order to increase people to people contact, both sides agreed to intensify the promotion of the bilateral agreement on the exchange of professional and technical trainees which allows citizens of the two countries to work in the Philippines and Switzerland for a period of 18 months.  There are approximately 10,000 Filipinos in Switzerland mainly working in the healthcare sector.

Assistant State Secretary Nobs thanked Undersecretary Basilio for the active cooperation between Switzerland and the Philippines in the multilateral arena and sought to further increase relations in the field of good governance, human rights and UN reform.  Undersecretary Basilio thanked Switzerland for its support for the successful candidature of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago to the International Criminal Court.

The next bilateral consultations will be held in Manila in 2014.

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