A fresh start in the Philippines
Foreign Minister Westerwelle and President Aquino
More than 7000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, that is the Philippines. The island nation with a population of over 90 million is currently going through an economic boom. Estimations predict that in 2013 the country will have the highest rate of economic growth in the region.
Foreign Minister Westerwelle made clear on arriving in Manila that his visit aims at reinvigorating relations with the Philippines, saying that the atmosphere of progress and decisive steps forward in politics and in the Mindanao peace process are making the Philippines a more and more attractive partner.
After a long period between visits, I want to see a reinvigoration in relations between Germany and the Philippines. Alongside the increase in trade volume and investments, we want to expand our relations across the board.
In talks with Foreign Minister del Rosario
The founding of an official German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce is to add further depth to economic exchanges between the two countries. In a joint press conference with his Philippine counterpart del Rosario, Foreign Minister Westerwelle advocated a free trade agreement between the EU and the Philippines, saying that exploratory talks should be concluded quickly. Del Rosario, who visited Berlin in 2011, explicitly addressed German companies and promoted his country as an investment destination.
Talks with President Benigno Aquino focussed on the situation in the South China Sea. The dispute over China’s territorial claims to the area of the Spratly Islands is ongoing. Open issues must be settled peacefully and consensually now.
The Philippines - a maritime nation
At the maritime training centre
As an island country, the Philippines are also an important maritime nation. Around 80 percent of the officers of Germany’s merchant fleet and over 30 percent of all sailors worldwide come from the Philippines. In Manila, Foreign Minister Westerwelle had the opportunity to visit a maritime training centre. Future captains receive the best possible training for their future jobs with the help of simulators. The training centre is in the same building as the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Progress in the peace process
Foreign Minister Westerwelle also wants to get first-hand information about the progress in the Mindanao peace process. More than 100,000 people have died in a 40-year conflict on the island of Mindanao.
The main point of contention has been the movement toward autonomy of many parts of eastern Mindanao, which earlier had been inhabited exclusively by Muslims and where in recent decades Christians have increasingly settled. Since 2011, EU observers have been in the region as part of an international team monitoring a ceasefire. In October 2012, a framework agreement between the government and the Muslim rebel movement “Moro Islamic Liberation Front” (MILF) was reached, which includes a provisional roadmap for the peace process.
The Philippines are the first stop of a six-day trip to Asia that will take Foreign Minister Westerwelle to Singapore and Indonesia as well.
Next stop on the trip: Singapore
Minister Westerwelle will be delivering a speech in Singapore to a think tank and will be having talks with his Singaporean counterpart Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam. The city-state is considered the gateway to the South-East Asian market and is the most important location for German companies in the region: around 1300 German companies have a presence there.
Indonesia - the world's third largest democracy
The skyline of Jakarta
In Indonesia, meetings are planned with the new ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh as well as Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. Talks are also planned with representatives of civil society, religious communities and human rights organizations, and there will be a visit to the Borobudur Buddhist temple compound, whose restoration the German Government is helping to finance.
Indonesia is not only the world’s third largest democracy in terms of population but also a G20 member state and the biggest economy in South-East Asia. Jakarta is home to the secretariat of ASEAN, the most important regional organization in the Asian-Pacific region.
Last updated 08.02.2013