The Memorandum of understanding (MOU) is an outcome of the Presidential visit of President Duterte in 2018. The MOU seeks the establishment of a bilateral consultative mechanism that will develop and strengthen trade, enhance investments, and advance economic ties between the Philippines and Israel. In establishing a Joint Economic Commission (JEC), the two countries agree to exchange information on economic issues, identify and implement cooperative projects, organize consultations, missions, and official visits and enhance cooperation and linkages with their respective private sector.

Secretary Ramon M. Lopez recognized the importance of the newly signed JEC as a platform to further improve the Philippine-Israel economic relations, especially in the post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery period. He said, “As the country accelerates its efforts for continued recovery from the pandemic and managed to sustain inclusive growth, we continue to actively pursue new partnerships, either through JECs agreements and free trade agreements (FTAs) with strategic and non-traditional partners.”

Moreover, the MOU aims to explore and identify sectors where cooperation may be intensified and accordingly propose recommendations with the intent of expanding and diversifying trade and investments.

During the meeting, Sec. Lopez shared its list of priority sectors for investment promotion, including agribusiness/agriculture production, energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy, infrastructure and public private partnership PPP projects (such as infrastructure, real estate development, logistics), innovation (artificial intelligence), IT-BPM (including shared services), and manufacturing (electronics and digital infrastructure).

The Philippine trade chief also highlighted the country’s economic reforms and key legislations necessary that positions the country as a hub for investment, manufacturing, and innovation, through ease of doing business (EODB), Public Service Act (PSA), and Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Law. He added, “With the economic reforms instituted over the past six years and the strong domestic rebound, the country is on track to post 7-9% growth this year and hopefully achieve upper-middle-income status by next year.”

Israel Minister Barbivay lauded the initiatives pushed by the outgoing administration of President Duterte to liberalize the Philippine economy and attract more foreign investments. Further, she expressed hope that more Israeli companies would invest in the Philippines which would result in economic gains for both countries.

In 2021, Israel ranked 35th among the Philippines’ trading partners, 35th among export markets, and 31st among import suppliers. During the same year, Israel also ranked 12th among the Philippines’ sources of approved investments, with such amounting to PHP 829.9 million focusing on the real estate activities industry.

Secretary Lopez also acknowledged Philippine Ambassador to Israel Macairog Alberto, and Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Illan Fluss and Board of Investments (BOI) and Bureau of International Trade Relations (BITR) teams led by Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo and BOI Governor Marge Samaniego for working closely in finalizing the agreement.

The MOU comes right after the earlier signing of the first Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) between Philippines and Israel to encourage more investment flow between the two nations. ♦

Date of Release: 09 June 2022