PH, Singapore ink 6 accords on migrant workers, counterterrorism, data privacy, water

SINGAPORE --- The Philippines and Singapore have inked a total of six accords on different areas of cooperation as President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. ended his inaugural State Visit here on Wednesday, September 7.

President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. (Malacañang photo)

According to Malacañang, Singapore and the Philippines have signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Information and Communications Technology of the Philippines and the Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore in the field of digital cooperation.

The two countries also inked a Joint Communiqué between the Department of Migrant Workers of the Philippines and the Ministry of Health of Singapore on the recruitment of Filipino healthcare workers.

In addition, four memoranda on understanding were likewise signed by Filipino and Singaporean officials:

  1. Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Personal Data Protection between the National Privacy Commission of the Philippines and the Personal Data Protection Commission of Singapore
  2. Memorandum of Understanding between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority of the Philippines and Enterprise Singapore for Singapore and Philippines to collaborate on business opportunities on the development of New Clark City
  3. Memorandum of Understanding between the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System of the Philippines and the Public Utilities Board of Singapore on water collaboration
  4. Arrangements between the Singapore Armed Forces and Armed Forces of the Philippines concerning the assignment of a team to the Regional Counterterrorism Information Facility (CTIF) in Singapore

In a press briefing, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Maj. Gen. Romulo Manuel Jr., Philippine Army, Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Intel, will sign the CTIF arrangement for the Philippines' side.

The CTIF is a multilateral platform for monitoring, researching, and analyzing terrorist activities. By deploying a Philippine officer, the Philippines can share its experience and expertise in addressing or combating terrorism, gather valuable intelligence from other countries, and expand its defense network.

National Privacy Commission commissioner John Henry Du Naga will sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation in Personal Data Protection. This agreement aims to strengthen the digitization efforts of both countries, engendering trust in cross-border data flows and helping protect data privacy. It also aims to encourage data participation in the Philippine Digital Economy.

Singapore wants more Filipino workers

According to Angeles, the Philippine government hopes to have the agreement on sending more Filipino workers to Singapore implemented soon.

"We're hoping to have it implemented as soon as possible. Kasi kinilala ng Singapore ang tulong ng ating Filipino healthcare workers dito sa pandemya (Its because Singapore has recognized the help of Filipino healthcare workers in their fight against the pandemic)," she said.

"Since hindi pa actually tapos yung pandemic (Since the pandemic is not yet over), we expect that they will be hired at the earliest possible time," he added.

During his meeting with the Filipino community on Tuesday, President Marcos said Singapore wants to hire more Filipino engineers, professors, and those from aviation services. However, Angeles said there is no exact figure yet for how many positions will be available.

"Wala pa po tayong numbers dito for the Singapore side. Pero mas marami tayong workers dito (We don't have numbers in Singapore yet but we have more workers here)," she said.

"From what I understand, there are more opportunities also that are being given to us here," she added.

Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Susan Ople said on Tuesday evening, September 6, that Singapore is looking at hiring 3,000 Filipino healthcare workers.

Other discussions

Meanwhile, Angeles said President Marcos likewise discussed other matters with his Singaporean counterparts, including sociocultural and people-to-people exchanges. In particular, officials from both countries will talk about having two-way tourism in a post-pandemic era.

Singapore was the Philippines' top source of tourists from Southeast Asia in 2019, with 158,595 people from Singapore visiting the Philippines.

Officials from both countries will also tackle Singapore's technical and human resource development assistance to the Philippines.

In the area of political and security cooperation, Angeles said there would be an informal consultation on the Philippines and Singapore Action Plan and active military cooperation dialogues and intelligence exchanges. There would also be training assistance in law enforcement and maritime cooperation.

The Philippines and Singapore will likewise talk about economic cooperation in post-pandemic recovery, agriculture cooperation, Covid-19 assistance, and exchange of views on regional and global issues like the South China Sea.

Angeles said the Philippines has also secured "serious investors" from Singapore but declined to divulge further information as private Singaporean companies are involved.

Bolstering tourism

Meanwhile, Angeles said the Philippines is looking to boost ties with Singapore in tourism as the sector is the "front and center" of the Philippines' post-pandemic recovery efforts.

She said efforts are being made to make travel between the two countries easier. Such is the standardization of health certificates which eases travel restrictions between the Philippines and Singapore.

"It bolsters tourism both to the Philippines and to Singapore. So it's mutually beneficial. Direct 'yan and immediate (That is direct and immediate)," Angeles said.

"This is one of the biggest opportunities we have. If we can do it with Singapore, then perhaps we can standardize it with many more countries, and we can encourage more travelers," she added.

According to the Palace official, they expect to have more Singaporean tourists visit the Philippines than in 2019 because of less strict restrictions.

"We're getting a handle on the pandemic with people. Our hospitals are not filling up anymore, and we can open up the economy," Angeles noted.

"With the developments, with the further talks and with the standardization of the issuances of health certificates, with the ease of travel between countries, then we expect more," she added.