ISRAEL Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is here in Manila, the first visit by Israel’s highest ranking diplomat in 56 years.
Cohen brought with him in Manila a delegation of Israeli businessmen, and targets to double the Israeli investments from US$500 million to US$1 billion next year.
“Today, I am encouraging my fellow Israeli and Philippine friends to seize the opportunity and establish meaningful relations. Together we can elevate the bilateral trade volume to new heights, strengthening our economies and improving the lives of our citizens,” Cohen said in a speech at the opening of the Philippine-Israel business forum in Makati Monday.
National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan met Cohen before the business forum and welcomed the visit of the Israeli’s foreign minister as a sign of Israeli’s commitment to improve economic ties with the Philippines.
Balisacan said the Israelis see the Philippines as a “very important” partner.
He said the top three major sectors where Israeli companies can venture in the Philippines are: water, information and communication technology including cybersecurity, and agriculture.
“The water for us is really a game changer. If they can help us with our water security, that would be great. [In their place], there’s hardly any water except the salty water. But they are able to convert salty water into drinking water,” the Neda chief noted.
Israel is a world pioneer in water engineering, with more than 80 percent of its drinking water sourced from desalinated seawater and brackish water.
“The reverse is true in our case. We have so much water but we don’t have the technology and management practices to harvest the water, store it and release it when it’s needed.
We always experience flood when it rains, but we don’t have water when we need it,” Balisacan added, partly speaking in Filipino.
Cohen also held talks with his Philippine counterpart, Enrique Manalo, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection at the end of their meeting.
Besides economic relations, Manalo also highlighted the need to expand cooperation in defense and security, tourism, agriculture, science and technology and people-to-people ties.
There are around 30,000-50,000 Filipino workers in Israel, most of them caregivers based in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.
Amb. Yael Ravia-Zadok, deputy director general of Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Economic Department, thanked Filipino caregivers for their “mission” in taking care and treating the Israeli elderly people at home.
“We appreciate that so much. These Filipino workers served as a bridge with a heart between Israeli people and the Filipino people,” she said.
Image credits: Joey Razon/PNA