Good morning to everyone at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and greetings to all who are joining this dialogue online.

I would like to extend my special greetings to my fellow ministers and to our ASEAN officials.

  • Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Honorable Luigi Di Maio;
  • Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Economy Department, Honorable Sri Mustapa Mohamed;
  • Minister attached to the Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, Honorable Sok Chenda Sophea;
  • ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General, Honorable Satvinder Singh;
  • Italy’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Honorable Manlio Di Stefano;
  • Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Honorable Airlangga Hartarto;
  • This session’s Chair, Associazione Italia-ASEAN’s Vice President, Romeo Orlandi;
  • And of course, our presenters.

Thanks to everyone at The European House – Ambrosetti and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines for inviting me. Thanks to this event’s co-hosts—Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; the Associazione Italia-ASEAN; and the Italian Trade Agency. I am pleased to be among our friends from the ASEAN who represent the cooperation and diversity of our nations.

Last month, the ASEAN-Italy Development Partnership Committee adopted Practical Areas of Cooperation for 2022 to 2026. This document sets out priorities that include, among others, economic cooperation through trade and investment, digital integration, and energy. It also covers socio-cultural cooperation.

Such a significant turning point for ASEAN and Italy is part of a bigger story. The story of the big challenges that our nations face—climate change, energy security, and food security. The story that leads us to think about how we can build technologies and competencies for the future into the work set out before Italy and the ASEAN countries.

Italy is an industrial and technological powerhouse driven by small and medium businesses. A vibrant small and medium enterprise sector enhanced by high technology might just be a suitable model to emulate from the perspective of the Philippines.

Let me now go straight to some insights on three points.

My first point, ASEAN and Italy may consider collaboration in aerospace parts manufacturing; aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO); and aerospace research and development. 

In the Philippines, we are building two massive airport complexes north of Manila: the Clark International Airport in Central Luzon and the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan. These developments have ample capacity to host MRO operations as well as manufacturing clusters. The Philippines is not starting from scratch. Our local aerospace industry already employs around 6,000 Filipinos. The sector has capabilities in tier-1 and tier-2 aerospace parts manufacturing, aircraft maintenance and repair, and training.

The newly established Philippine Space Agency is also gearing up for space technology R&D, including using space data for disaster risk reduction and environment monitoring. We can collaborate significantly on using remote sensing for agriculture and the environment.

My second point, on energy transition, I believe that the inclusion of energy in the June 2022 Practical Cooperation Areas for Italy and ASEAN is a vital first step toward collaboration.

The current priorities of the ASEAN energy cooperation are to secure the region’s energy needs and create favorable conditions for ASEAN’s goals in clean energy development.

There is much to be learned from Italy’s experience. Italy is the third in Europe in both renewal power consumption, and electrical and thermal power production from renewable resources. ASEAN and Italy may exchange knowledge on technology solutions in renewable energy.

In the case of the Philippines, we are on the verge of massive adoption of renewables for energy security. But renewable energy is characterized by an intermittent power supply. Thus, our legacy baseload grid needs to adapt to more intermittent power sources.

We look forward to technical cooperation with Italy in digitally supported grids for dealing with intermittent power. We need such solutions for our small island grids, our off-grid communities, and our priorities on a national scale.

Let me also share with you that our Tariff Commission has recommended eliminating tariffs on electric vehicles. Approval of this recommendation will put Italian e-vehicle makers on a level-playing field alongside our free trade agreement partners. We are opening our EV market to help develop an ecosystem for a viable market that can support the production of electric vehicles in the Philippines.

Our country also has a robust regime for strategic trade management, intellectual property protection, and labor protection. These, apart from solid competencies in electronics, could be leveraged to support electric vehicle and battery manufacturing.

We are also moving towards an innovative and greener economy by taking advantage of the increasing global demand for green metals. The Philippines holds considerable potential in green metals production. Our country can be Italy’s strategic partner in supplying critical minerals needed for Italian electric vehicles and battery production sectors. We have nickel, cobalt, and copper in abundance. The Philippines is also a dominant supplier of nickel ore, not only in Asia but in the world. It accounts for 31 percent of global exports. But, of course, we now want to have greater value addition locally for our mineral resources 

The Philippines’ environment protection and responsible mining practices help ensure the sustainability of the country’s natural resources.

And my third point, on smart technologies that pave the way to 4.0 production models, I believe two factors create ample opportunities for Italy and ASEAN to advance their cooperation:

First factor, the strength of Italy in manufacturing

The Philippines views Industry 4.0 as an opportunity to leapfrog to industrialization through the accelerated adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies.

The country is focusing on three strategic industry clusters that would drive the country’s hi-tech industrialization, namely:

  1. the Industrial, Manufacturing, and Transport cluster focusing on electronics, automotive, and aerospace industries
  2. the Technology, Media, and Telecommunication cluster focusing on IT and business process management services, Artificial Intelligence, data analytics
  3. the Health and Life Science cluster covering digital health products, pharmaceutical, and pharmaceutical products.

Second factor, the growing interest of ASEAN in “Agriculture 4.0”

With “Agriculture 4.0” also taking root in Southeast Asia, Italy and ASEAN may work together to promote smart farming and agricultural technology that can contribute to onshore food security.

Both Italy and the Philippines face the challenge of climate change, and this situation creates an opportunity for the two countries to tackle the problem together. In June this year, our Philippine Department of Trade and Industry colleagues attended the Ambrosetti-organized Food and Beverage Forum in Bormio, Italy. At the forum, Italian Deputy Minister Manlio di Stefano said Northern Italy has been experiencing its worst drought for over 70 years. Note that the Philippines is similarly facing the threat of climate change to food security.

Thus, we look forward to technology cooperation on the future of food, be these plant-based alternatives, health and safety certifications, urban agriculture, or innovation centers focused on the food industry.

We also look forward to technology and policy cooperation with Italy on the Circular Economy, especially in green product innovation, clean production technology, and sustainability mechanisms.

I hope you have found value in the three points I shared.

Thank you again to European House of Ambrosetti. I understand that in Bormio last June, the negotiations for a Joint Economic Mission started. In this regard, I have asked our DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo to facilitate the conclusion of the negotiations toward the signing of a memorandum of understanding by September this year. We express our readiness to host Deputy Minister Di Stefano and the Italian Business Delegation by then.

I also look forward to discussing with Ambrosetti the possibility of bringing this High-Level dialogue to the Philippines in 2024. May we all have a meaningful discussion for the rest of this dialogue. Thank you. Mabuhay! ♦

Date of Release: 06 July 2022