The Philippines and Israel are poised to forge a mutual investment protection agreement in various sectors, focusing on agriculture technology, where the former has been lagging behind other countries and was further aggravated during the pandemic.
At the virtual Philippine-Israel Agrotech Business Forum and B2B Session, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President Amb. Benedicto V. Yujuico revealed that during his meeting in February this year with Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz they agreed to jointly undertake a series of pitching sessions on agro technology and information and telecommunications technology sectors.
For his part, the Israeli Ambassador cited opportunities for Israeli firms in Philippine agriculture, water technology, clean technology, cyber security, medical healthcare and industry 4.0 and other sectors.
Yujuico lamented the fact that the agriculture sector was left behind during the pandemic where the government has to focus on economic survival.
“The modernization of the agriculture sector has been sidelined in favour of services and manufacturing during this pandemic period,” said Yujuico.
It is very unfortunate, he said, because agriculture is the main economic activity in the countryside, where it employs about 25 percent of population, combined with agribusiness, the sector provides employment to 40 percent of the Filipino people.
“Needless to say, investing in this sector can boost local economic development, and bring an essential sector in improving productivity in the sector that will ensure strong food value chains, promote vibrant rural economies, and promote and sustain the growth of our economy, post COVID-19,” he added.
Thus, he said, crucial to improving productivity in the sector is innovation through cutting edge technologies. Yujuico cited how Israel has been able to become food sufficient even if it has only 20 percent arable land.
“We are in awe at how Israel, with only 20 percent of the land is arable, is not only able to produce its own food, but it’s also a key exporter, with $1.2 billion worth of agri inputs and technology sold abroad,” he said.
COVID-19 has reinforced the PCCI’s target to vigorously advanced the country’s agriculture sector through innovation by tapping our international networks.
Yujuico citedthe fishery and agriculture committee headed by Roberto C Amores and the innovation committee chaired by Perry Ferrer for zeroing in on specific technologies for collaboration with Israeli companies, namely in the areas of drip irrigation for fruits, dairy farming, fisheries and aquaculture and detection of African swine flu and other matters.
Harpaz said that relations between the two countries have been booming and necessitates the crafting of a framework which will enable businesses of both sides to develop relations.
Harpaz said Philippine Airlines is poised to mount direct flights to Tel Aviv come October which will enable people-to-people contact for business between the two countries.
The ambassador noted Israel has been advocating advanced agriculture systems, training Filipinos. Israel introduced drip irrigation to the Philippines and promoted solar energy technology, greenhouses and hydroponics.
Yujuico also expressed interest to send a mission to Israel when the pandemic is over which was welcomed by Israeli officials.