Philippine and Hungarian delegations at the plenary session of the 5th JCEC meeting

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY– On 05 December 2023, Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Allan B. Gepty and Hungarian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Levente Magyar highlighted the significant progress achieved under the 5th Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation (JCEC) mechanism resulting to several agreements forged, cooperation activities conducted, and stakeholders benefitting in areas such as trade, education, agriculture, and labor since its inception in 2019. 

During the plenary session, Undersecretary Gepty recognized, “The Philippines and Hungary have established extraordinary friendship that transcends beyond diplomatic relations. We have established dynamic and productive economic relations over the last five years and are positioned to gain further, particularly in trade and investments.” 

The total merchandise trade between the Philippines and Hungary amounted to USD 189.84 million in 2022, displaying an increasing trend since 2020 when total trade momentarily declined coinciding with the pandemic year. Likewise, exports and imports  showed an increasing trend, indicating the potential to further improve current levels which would benefit businesses of both countries. Among the twenty-seven European Union (EU) Member States, Hungary ranked as the Philippines’ seventh top export market and fifteenth top GSP+ export market in 2022. 

In terms of inward investments, the Philippines sees opportunities in Hungary’s expertise in agriculture, information and communication technologies, digital technologies, and water technologies as well as the Philippines’ key industries such as renewable energy, green metals, electric vehicles manufacturing, and smart and high-tech light manufacturing. This was further demonstrated during the business forum held on the sidelines of the JCEC wherein at least 60 Hungarian companies engaged in agribusiness, electronics, water treatment and supply, IT solutions, healthcare, shipbuilding, renewable energy, smart solutions and human resources/ recruitment participated. 

On education, the two sides highlighted the great interest and uptake of Filipino scholars of Stipendium Hungaricum—a fully sponsored scholarship program offered by the Hungarian government to 35 Filipino students every year in courses such as agriculture and sustainable development, medicine, water management engineering and hydrology, architecture and protection of cultural heritage, natural sciences, and environment sciences, among others. Both countries also look forward to implementing the Memorandum of Understanding on Vocational Education and Training (VET) signed in 2022. 

Philippine and Hungarian delegations at the technical session of the 5th JCEC meeting on 04 December 2023

Updates on agriculture-related partnerships were also discussed during the JCEC. These include the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ (MATE) extensive collaboration with various universities, colleges and research institutions in the Philippines as well as with the Philippine Department of Agriculture in aquaculture development, landscape design, urban planning and architecture, rice cultivation and waste management. 

Apart from these, both sides lauded its cooperation on labor which resulted in concrete outcomes as the number of Filipino workers in Hungary has already reached 9,000 with expectations to increase further given Hungary’s continued strong interest in hiring Filipinos in the field of agriculture, services, transportation and trucking industries as well as healthcare. MFAT’s Deputy State Secretary for External Economic Relations Katalin Bihari cited that Filipino workers are known for their excellent linguistic ability, high quality of work, and reliability. She added that Hungary will make every effort for this cooperation to continue. 

In addition, Hungary reaffirmed its readiness to offer a tied aid loan of USD 33 million to the Philippines to finance social infrastructure projects related to water management such as the Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project (PMNP) under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The said project aims to provide interventions for communities to access clean and safe drinking water.

DTI Undersecretary Allan B. Gepty and MFAT Deputy Minister Levente Magyar 

The conduct of the 5th JCEC meeting, comes at an opportune time as the Philippines and Hungary celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations, which also demonstrate a clear manifestation of their commitment to pursue mutual prosperity. Further, comparatively new and prospective cooperation activities in energy, science, technology, and innovation, integrated circuit (IC) design, space science and technology, environment, health, and transportation will position the two economies for greater heights. 

Recognizing the consistent partnership between the Philippines and Hungary, DTI Secretary Fred Pascual underscored, “The Philippine government looks forward to our continued partnership with Hungary as we work towards a science, technology and innovation (STI) driven economy. With the country’s enabling business environment, we encourage Hungary to make it happen in the Philippines!” 

In closing, Undersecretary Gepty emphasized that Southeast Asia remains key and center for economic activity in the world now. For its part, the Philippines offers consistent high economic growth, a young, dynamic and high-skilled workforce, a strategic location for trade and tourism, and clear policy direction for an open economy. With this, the Philippines can certainly serve as Hungary’s gateway/hub in the region. ♦

Date of release: 11 December 2023