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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Broader trade, defense pacts with Czech seen

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PRAGUE—President Marcos on Thursday expressed hope that the Czech Republic would assist the Philippines in modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines amid the country’s issues in the South China Sea.

Mr. Marcos and Czech President Petr Pavel tackled issues in the South China Sea as the Philippine leader conveyed Manila’s position on the matter and the defense cooperation between the two countries.

“Czech is always an important part of that evolution,” Mr. Marcos said in a press conference with Pavel at the Prague Castle upon his arrival on the second leg of his Central European tour.

“I briefed President Pavel on the situation in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, and I underscored that the Philippine position on the South China Sea remains consistent, clear, and firmly anchored in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Mr. Marcos added.

He also told Pavel that while the persistent incidents of aggression and harassment in the South China Sea are “unfortunate,” the Philippines continue to engage all its neighbors and stakeholders through diplomacy and dialogue.

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Mr. Marcos also thanked the Czech Republic’s support “as a like-minded partner” in upholding peace, stability, and the rules-based international order.

The state visit reaffirms the Philippines’ commitment to further cultivate its bonds and friendship with the Czech Republic and cementing the enduring ties between the two countries and its citizens, the President said.

Meanwhile, Speaker Martin Romualdez said Thursday that thousands of Filipinos would benefit from President Marcos’ visits to Germany and Czech Republic this week due to the number of job opportunities his diplomatic engagements were expected to generate.

Romualdez said that contrary to unfounded claims of leisurely pursuits, the President’s schedule was packed with back-to-back meetings and discussions aimed at advancing our national interest and the welfare of our people.

He cited as example Tuesday’s bilateral meeting between President Marcos and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in which the latter invited Filipino workers to Germany as the country eased restrictions on the entry of foreign workers.

Following his three-day working visit in Germany, Mr. Marcos will also hold meetings with Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Senate President Miloš Vystrčil, and Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Markéta Pekarová Adamová, underscoring the importance of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Accompanied by First Lady Louise Araneta-Marcos and the Philippine delegation, the aircraft carrying the President landed at 5:43 p.m. Wednesday (12:43 a.m. Thursday Manila time).

His visit to Prague is the second half of his five-day official visit to the two Central European nations, Germany and the Czech Republic, in an effort to bolster cooperation with the two nations.

One of the significant highlights of the visit is the anticipated signing of a Joint Communiqué on the establishment of labor consultation mechanisms, the Presidential Communications Office said.

This pact aims to enhance cooperation between the Philippines and the Czech Republic, ensuring the safe migration of Filipino workers while safeguarding their rights and welfare.

As both nations prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their bilateral ties, forged since October 5, 1973, the President’s state visit holds particular significance in bolstering the enduring friendship and cooperation between the Philippines and the Czech Republic.

Recently, Germany passed the Skilled Immigration Act that relaxed certain requirements and provided incentives such as allowing family members to join workers, among others, to attract foreign labor, especially in the IT, engineering, health, and teaching professions.

Romualdez said that because of President Marcos’ initiatives, Filipino workers are most welcome in Germany to fill its labor gap. He cited reports that the country needs about 400,000 additional workers annually to grow its economy.

The Philippines and Germany also signed the renewal of the “Cooperation Program” between the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), which will capacitate Filipino workers in the fields of digitalization and the green economy.

Earlier, Romualdez also said the investment deals worth at least $4 billion or P220-billion secured by Marcos from eight different types of agreements during his three-day working visit to Germany will undoubtedly spur job creation, stimulate innovation, and enhance productivity.

The Speaker also pointed out that labor is among the key areas President Marcos would discuss with Czech President Petr Pavel during their meeting today (Czech Republic time).

During his state visit to the Czech Republic, President Marcos is expected to discuss with his counterpart the increase in quota for the entry of Filipino workers and the safeguards to ensure the protection of the rights and welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers.

In 2023, the Czech government announced a further increase in the quota for Filipino workers as follows: 5,500 per year beginning January 2024 and 10,300 per year beginning May 2024, or more than 900-percent increase from the initial quota of 1,000 per year in 2018.

According to the Department of Migrant Workers, details on the deployment of Filipino workers to the Czech Republic will be discussed during President Marcos’ state visit to Prague.

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