Bilateral trade between Manila and Madrid now stands at $600 million with the balance in favor of the latter, which is why the Duterte administration is seeking to increase direct exports of locally manufactured high-value goods to Spain like computer parts and other electronic goods, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said here. In a recent press briefing with Spain's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Ignacio Ybanez Rubio, Dominguez said the country's exports are now at an advantage given the strong position of the US dollar against other Asian currencies, including the Philippine peso. Dominguez also pointed out that the quality of Philippine manufactured products is "quite competitive with the rest of the world." Direct exports to Spain, Dominguez said, could include computers and computer parts, printers and electronic parts for smartphones and other devices that are exported by the Philippines to another country before these goods eventually end up in a third country like Spain. "Our manufacturing base here is growing and growing stronger. The fact that our currency has depreciated in the US dollar is certainly an advantage. Plus I think also our production here is quite competitive with the rest of the world," Dominguez said. According to the finance chief, the value of Philippine imports from Spain amounts to $400 million, while exports total only $200 million. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority and the Department of Trade and Industry show that Spain ranks 8th among the 28 member-states of the European Union trading with the Philippines, and ranks 26th among all Philippine major trading partners, 25thas an export market and 23rd as an import source. Dominguez said that on top of boosting bilateral trade ties, Spain, as a global leader in renewable energy development, can also consider investing in the Philippines, especially now with President Duterte's recent pronouncements to open up the power and telecommunications sectors to foreign investors. "The president mentioned that he would like to open up in the telecommunications area, in power, and definitely he wants to invite more competition in these sectors and other sectors of the economy for the benefit of Filipino consumers," Dominguez said. Ybanez, in turn, reiterated that Spanish companies are ready to come to the Philippines to invest here. "There are many areas in which we can cooperate together and of course, contribute to the development of the Philippines, and at the same time contribute to the development of Spain," Ybanez said. The two countries are currently in the process of finetuning a proposed Memorandum of Understanding on Economic and Financial Cooperation, which would focus on the areas of agriculture, industry, energy and services, water infrastructure, climate finance, environmental economics, and disaster risk finance. George Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said the top-level Spanish delegation led by Ybanez that visited Davao City to attend the 8th Tribuna Espana-Filipinas are eager "in revitalizing the relationship between the Philippines and Spain." The Tribuna Espana-Filipinas is a partnership between the Barcelona-based private-public foundation Casa Asia, the Philippine-Spanish Business Council of the PCCI and the Makati-headquartered non-profit Fundacion Santiago. This year's Tribuna is the eight staging of the cooperation conference, and the first held in Mindanao, which was made possible by Dominguez, according to Jose Leviste Jr, who chairs the PCCI's Philippine-Spanish Business Council. "This is a very special event for us, first time in Davao, first time in Mindanao, under the leadership of the 'Son of Davao,' the Secretary of Finance," Leviste said. As of April 2016, total on-going Spanish Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines amounted to US$ 29.93 million, based on data from the National Economic and Development Authority. The programmed loans that Spain has given to the Philippines so far amount to about $50 million, mostly in the form of soft loans. The last loan agreement with Spain was for the Bridge Construction/Replacement Project of Department of Public Works and Highways, which was executed on Nov. 6, 2009.
Source: Philippine Information Agency