PH, South Korea reaffirm elevation of ties to 'strategic partnership'

Published December 16, 2021, 1:27 PM

by Betheena Unite

The Philippines and South Korea reaffirmed to elevate their economic interaction amid the coronavirus pandemic, including the move to allow the entry of Filipino workers to the foreign country’s employment permit system (EPS), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (left) with Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Chung Eui Yong (right) (Photo courtesy of the DFA)

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong reaffirmed several areas of cooperation when they met on Dec. 12 at the sidelines of the recently-concluded ASEAN-G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Liverpool, United Kingdom (UK).

Both sides agreed to elevate their relations towards a “strategic partnership,” stressing the two countries’ already robust bilateral cooperation in various areas especially in defense, trade and investment, people-to-people exchanges, and in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

“The two ministers agreed on the need to revive economic interaction amid the pandemic, and noted the entry under the EPS of Filipino workers who contribute greatly to the labor force of small and medium-sized companies in South Korea,” the DFA said in a statement on Thursday, Dec. 16.

Before the pandemic, 85,000 Koreans lived, worked, and studied in the Philippines while over 48,000 Filipinos found homes and careers in South Korea, the department added.

Locsin expressed optimism for the two countries’ bilateral trade outlook with the conclusion in October 2021 of the negotiations for a PH-ROK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – which, once signed, will be only the second FTA of the Philippines with a single country.

He conveyed appreciation for South Korea’s continuous official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines, noting that the foreign country was one of the first countries to extend humanitarian assistance to the Philippines at the onset of the pandemic with its donation of masks, testing kits, and USD 2.5-million worth of cold chain facilities and equipment.

On Nov. 30, the South Korean government donated 539,430 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to the Philippines.

Moreover, the two foreign ministers highlighted the importance of defense and security as well as maritime cooperation, given the great importance that Philippines, a maritime and littoral state, attaches to maritime issues, and South Korea’s deep interest in sustainable oceans and fisheries management.

Locsin also welcomed South Korea’s initiative to deepen its engagement with countries in Southeast Asia under Korean President Moon Jae-in’s New Southern Policy Plus.

The ministers likewise exchanged views on regional and international issues such as developments in the West Philippine Sea / South China Sea, North Korea, and candidatures in international organizations.