MANILA: Saudi Arabia and the UAE are sowing the seeds for a major program of investment in the Philippines’ agriculture and food security sectors.
The two nations are exploring avenues for possible cooperation and trade deals with the southeast Asian country, its Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on Monday.
Saudi officials are due to visit the Philippines later this year for bilateral talks, and the UAE’s Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al-Mehairi has just concluded a two-day trade mission there to look into tie-ups in agriculture and food sciences.
Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto recently met with Piñol to discuss how their country’s agricultural industry could benefit from developments in the Saudi economy.
According to Alonto, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) had expressed an interest in investing in the sector, and several project proposals are due to be considered.
Piñol said that the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and its Department of Agriculture will join forces to conduct an agri-investment mission and develop links with agencies in the Kingdom.
Representatives from the Philippines and Saudi Arabia had already reaffirmed their commitment to bilateral cooperation at a high-level meeting held in the capital Manila in November last year.
As well as trade, investment, labor and health services, other possible areas of collaboration include security, technical training, and technology.
In January this year, the former president of the Philippines and current Lower House speaker, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, led a trade delegation to Saudi Arabia to promote business in Mindanao.
The trip included a presentation to the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) on investment opportunities in cacao plantations and processing, and seaweed production, along with projects to rebuild and expand several hospitals destroyed during the five-month Marawi siege. Oil and gas production from reserves in the Sulu Sea was also discussed.
Relations between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia span 49 years and since 1980 the two countries have signed a number of agreements on economic, trade, commercial, investment, and technical cooperation. Meanwhile, Al-Mehairi’s trip from March 25 to 26 included a visit to the Philippine Rice Research Institute in the city of Muñoz, in Nueva Ecija province, and the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna province.
In Manila, the UAE agriculture officials held talks with senior counterparts and other stakeholders in agribusiness.