Statement by Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe on the Occasion of the National Day Celebration of the Republic of the Philippines, Friday 12 June 2009

H.E. Ambassador Virgilio Reyes
Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Senior Government Officials
Business and Labour Representatives
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Government and people of South Africa, to join the Government and people of the Republic of the Philippines in the celebration of their National Day of Independence.

Excellency,

Looking back to 1993 when relations between South Africa and the Philippines were formally established, we can certainly mutually take pride in the progress we have made.

Most recently the warm and cordial relationship between our two countries was demonstrated, once again, when Vice President Noli de Castro represented the Philippines at the Inauguration of South Africa’s newly elected Head of State, President Jacob Zuma. We sincerely hope that Vice President de Castro had an opportunity to see a little more of South Africa than just the airport, the hotel and the Inauguration sites.

Having ourselves been through an electoral process this year, I’d like to use this opportunity to wish the Philippines every success with its Presidential and General elections scheduled to take place in May 2010.  We are aware that there is much enthusiasm for the upcoming elections.
 
Excellency

We have noted the relatively strong performance of the Philippine economy in these difficult economic times were in.  For our part, the Minister in the Presidency responsible for planning, Mr Trevor Manuel, said last week that, deep as it is, South Africa's policies have spared the country the worst ravages of the global recession, adding that the contraction of our economy seen in the first quarter of 2009 is still much lower than most in the industrialised world.  Still, these are difficult times ahead for all of us.  Let us hope that this time next year the world economic crisis would have abated.

The strong ties between our two countries are rooted in our shared values, in the solidarity forged over the difficult years of our struggle for democracy and freedom, and in the leadership that both our countries are taking to promote closer South-South cooperation. These ties not only continue to bind us, but offer new opportunities in the current international climate.
 
It is therefore encouraging to witness the range of areas over which our bilateral relationship has expanded over the last year. This includes the initiation of new agreements such as Agricultural Cooperation and the Establishment of a Bilateral Consultative Forum, which will provide impetus at a practical level once they are finalised. Another new field is the Memorandum of Cooperation concluded earlier this year between the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the Supreme Court of the Philippines.  

This trend is not limited to interaction at the official level, but is further evident in widening people-to-people contact. More and more of our citizens are visiting each other’s countries as tourists, or in delegations pursuing business and other leads. In the process new areas are opening up, such as investment and cooperation in business process outsourcing, in mining, and agriculture - for example the contact established between the goat farmers of the Philippines and South Africa.

And, even though the Philippines is not a soccer playing nation, South Africa once again acknowledges the contribution coming from the Philippines for that most exciting of sporting events to be hosted by South Africa, the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Perhaps it is not widely known, but Filipino skilled workers were recruited to South Africa to assist with the construction and upgrading of stadia for the World Cup.  We hope that we will be able to welcome many football enthusiasts from the Philippines during the World Cup.

In short, relations between our two countries are growing at many levels – bilateral and multilateral, official and people-to-people - and hold much promise for the future.

On this note I should like to invite you to raise your glasses and join me in a toast to the warm relations between South Africa and the Philippines, to the health of Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and to the prosperity of the Philippine people.

I thank you

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