His Excellency Ahmed bin Ali Al Sayegh, Minister of State Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!

Four thousand years ago, our ancestors arrived on boats north of the Philippines as part of the great movement of the Austronesian-speaking people. Thereafter the story of our people began. An ancient culture was born and carried over time by the continuing movement of Filipinos over land and across seas.

Today, the constant, incessant movement of Filipinos all over the world is the inspiration behind the Philippines’ presentation here at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The Philippines Pavilion is aptly named Bangkota, meaning coral reef in ancient Filipino. Like a coral reef where a single polyp can travel oceans, attach itself to other polyps, then grow into bigger corals, Filipinos travel and migrate, build vibrant communities everywhere they go, bringing with them their skills and talents, and contributing tremendously to the economies of countries where they settle.

We commend the UAE government for its bold initiative in hosting the First World Expo in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia region; and in delivering what turned out to be the biggest and most impressive Expo ever.

We are proud to be part of such an achievement.

Our participation in Expo 2020 Dubai is memorable in many ways: We have the biggest pavilion in the history of our participation in world expos; It is the very first time that we have a self-build pavilion of such scope and magnitude; And we have a singularly focused theme that revolves on one narrative: Our 4,000-year journey as a people.

The Expo 2020 Dubai has been a game-changer in Philippines-UAE economic relations, opening up unlimited opportunities in trade, tourism, and investments. We project increased revenues in major industry sectors.

We see both our economies recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as total trade between our two countries rose by 34.7% with a value of USD 951-M in 2021, from USD 705 million in 2020. Philippine exports is valued at USD 245.1-M while imports doubled to USD 705.9 million.

Among the Philippines’ trading partners in 2021, the UAE is our biggest export partner in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi, in particular, serves as a transit hub for the Philippines’ export products, many of which enter duty-free to other countries in the Middle East.

In terms of investments, the UAE ranked as the 17th top source of approved investments in 2019, valued at USD 13.24-M. This afternoon, we just signed two important trade and investment documents with the government of the United Arab Emirates.

The signing of the Philippines–UAE Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement intensified the economic relations of both states as it forges deeper investment ties. The Agreement is very comprehensive. It affords more protection of UAE investments into the Philippines and vice versa. It accords National Treatment, Most Favoured Nation Treatment, freedom from expropriation, Transfers, access to Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism, among others.

It is even a more opportune time now for UAE investors to invest in the Philippines as recent economic and regulatory reforms are now set in place, such as the liberalization of public services act, retail trade and the foreign investment act and improvement in the tax and incentives regime of the Philippines. I therefore urge that the Joint Committee on Investment established under the Agreement be called to start investment initiatives.

Further, Both sides agreed to launch negotiations for a future Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or CEPA that will strengthen trade, enhance investment flows, remove unnecessary barriers to trade, and create new business opportunities.

These bilateral agreements are both important and significant because they denote a commitment from both countries to work together to deepen cooperation and stimulate business initiatives on the basis of mutual benefit.

I sincerely thank His Excellency Mohamed Bin Hadi Al Hussaini, Minister of State for Financial Affairs, for his leadership in steering the negotiations for the IPPA to its final conclusion.

I likewise thank His Excellency Dr. Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Foreign Trade, for his warm response to the CEPA and to increased economic activities between our countries.

I am pleased to report that from this morning’s business briefing, several UAE companies have signified strong interest to invest and explore business opportunities in the Philippines by signing Letters of Intent (LOIs) and Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). These investment prospects are expected to bring an estimated USD 580.5 million and generate 3,920 employment opportunities into the Philippines.

More than trade and investments, however, our relationship with the UAE is founded on people power: The power of the estimated 700,000 Filipinos working and living here in the UAE.

It is with boldness that I state a simple fact: We help power not only your economies, but your lives…with care and compassion…giving a deeper meaning to the word service.

My sincerest thanks to the UAE government and His Highness Khalifa Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, for taking good care of our Filipino nationals and providing them with a safe environment to grow and prosper.

On this special day, the Philippines National Day at the Expo 2020 Dubai, our beloved President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, together with my fellow workers in government, the executive department, the honorable leaders in senate and congress, our kababayans the overseas Filipino workers, we all share with the UAE and the world the untold journey of the Filipino and his remarkable story of migration, aspiration, and assimilation.

It is a story that needs to be told and retold so that this generation and future generations to come, will have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Filipino emergence in the community of nations.

I salute our fellow Filipinos here in the UAE and commend their fearless quest for a better life…for themselves, their families and loved ones, and for their communities.

I pay homage to the Filipinos’ spirit of bayanihan, evident in their presence here today to celebrate with us on the occasion of our Philippine National Day.

Mabuhay ang Pilipino! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Date of Release: 11 February 2022