Jerusalem, 5 June, 2023 (TPS) — Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with Philippine President Marcos and Foreign Minister Manelo, marking the first visit of an Israeli foreign minister to Manila in 56 years.
Cohen’s visit aims to strengthen strategic ties and bilateral trade with East Asia.
“Strengthening ties with the Philippines and other countries in East Asia will open doors for groundbreaking economic and political opportunities,” Cohen stated.
On Monday, Cohen and Manelo signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in environmental protection. The agreement provides opportunities to share best practices in addressing common challenges related to the environment, preservation of ecosystems, disaster risk management, and promotion and dissemination of environmental technologies, among others.
“We believe that close cooperation in the field of environmental protection can provide an important contribution to the friendly relations between our two states and to help in addressing issues of sustainability, climate change and help protect our planet,” Cohen said.
At an Israel-Philippines Business Forum on Sunday, Cohen expressed hope for direct flights between Tel Aviv and Manila to begin in 2024, adding that it would be “great news for the tourism industry and business community.”
Opportunities for direct Israeli flights to the Far East opened up after Saudi Arabia and Oman began permitting Israeli flights to cross their airspace.
Cohen also highlighted the potential for establishing a land-sea transport route that would connect Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, thereby reducing international transportation costs for goods. A key part of that plan would be an Israeli-Saudi rail link reaching the Persian Gulf.
The visit also included the inauguration of a new wing at the Israeli Embassy in Manila to boost economic cooperation.
Cohen is being accompanied by a delegation of Israeli officials who will focus on collaborating with their Philippine counterparts in areas such as health, energy, water, agriculture, cybersecurity and emergency preparedness.
Over the past several years, thousands of Filipinos have received training in Israel through Mashav, Israel’s agency for international development cooperation, in areas such as agriculture, water management, education, gender equality, women’s empowerment, sustainability, and health, among others. Around 5,550 Filipinos are currently completing 11-month agricultural internships in Israel.
During the meeting, Minister Cohen expressed Israel’s gratitude to the Philippines for its remarkable humanitarian efforts during the Holocaust. He acknowledged the Philippines’ role in rescuing 1,300 Jews and being the only Asian country to support the establishment of the State of Israel in 1947.
Cohen’s trip to the Philippines is the first by an Israeli foreign minister after more than 50 years.
The last Israeli minister of foreign affairs to visit Manila was Abba Eban in 1967.
Approximately 28,000 Filipinos work in Israel as caregivers and hotel workers. Since the end of coronavirus travel restrictions, the Philippines have been marketing their country as a tourist destination for Israelis.
Israeli-Philippine relations date all the way back to the Jewish state’s founding. The Philippines was the only Asian country to vote in favor of the UN Partition Plan of 1947 to create a Jewish state. Full diplomatic relations were established with the signing of the 1958 Treaty of Friendship.
Following his visit, Cohen will continue on to South Korea.