Aquino should turn to foreign policy

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PRESIDENT Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd often gripes about his critics, whom he accuses of being overly focused on the negatives and of failing to offer solutions to the problems that they complain about. One remedy for the weary President is to focus more on foreign policy, beginning with the strengthening of relations with Israel. Doing so seems timely. The Netanyahu government, which recently won a fresh mandate, is turning to Asia in a big way, so says a high-ranking Israeli official during a visit to Manila not long ago.

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Even without a special occasion, the Philippines should improve relations with Israel, especially on the economic front. Israel is an industrialized economy worth more than $273 billion. It has much to offer not only in agricultural expertise, but also in high technology. Moreover, Filipinos, along with the rest of the world, have much to learn about entrepreneurship from Israelis. According to the book Start-Up Nation, Israel produces more start-ups than Japan, China, South Korea, India and the UK – despite having virtually no natural resources, a small population of 7.1 million, and a number of tough neighbors.

We should revisit our historical ties to Israel. Until today, Israelis commemorate the decision of President Manuel Quezon to welcome Jewish refugees from Europe before the outbreak of World War II. And when Israelis celebrate their independence day next month, few Filipinos will probably remember that the Philippines played a crucial role in the creation of their country. In 1947, the Philippines cast the crucial vote to pass the UN resolution that partitioned Palestine and gave birth to the state of Israel. Largely in appreciation of that vote, Israel continues to allow visa-free entry to Filipinos. But getting there is difficult and more expensive, because there are no direct flights between Manila and Tel-Aviv, despite the fact that there is an air agreement between the Philippines and Israel.

Now is the time to renew old friendships as Israel pivots to Asia. The Philippines can offer to be its gateway to the region, in particular to the Asean market of some 600 million people. The Philippines, being an old friend, should be the natural choice of Israelis coming to do business in Asia. Besides, our economy has attracted much attention because of its rapid growth and bright outlook.

For sure, enhancing economic relations and closing deals with Israeli investors require more than sentimental memories of past deeds. But in Asia, business is built on friendships. Granted, the Philippines faces tough competition from other investment destinations that are bigger economically and more stable politically. Worse, the Philippines has a host of problems, like poor infrastructure, high power costs, and other issues that President Aquino seems overly sensitive about when media reports about them. Fortunately for the President, many of our problems can be presented as opportunities to foreign investors. And despite his plunging popularity ratings at home, we believe that the Aquino name still carries weight with most in the international community. We can only hope that President Aquino learns from past leaders who found success in foreign policy work despite struggling with problems on the home front. If nothing else, rekindling friendships with countries like Israel can be far more productive.

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4 Comments

  1. It is ill-advised for Pnoy to embark on a pro-Israeli policy amid millions of OFWs working in petro-dollar rich Arab countries without being harmed in venture. israel is a pariah in the Middle East, and if not US support, it will be blown out from the world map. But such is world politics, and American hegemonism. It distorts and undercut international law and rule of law. For the PH to be pro-Israel is to invite disgrace for this island nation, and minus massive US military investment may consequently, find itself swarmed by all sort of threats and violence as Israel currently faced. Will it allow itself to be an outcast within ASEAN, which is basically composed of neutral. non-aligned members?

    China will be glad to see PH become victim of its own policy miscalculation. Our bright strategists and analysts cannot sift through historical facts and national interest. So what if past misguided Philippine leaders were humane to Hitler’s Jewish enemies whom he considered criminals anyway. Why should innocent Filipinos be made to suffer the same fate?

  2. The author probably not aware there are several million Filipinos working in GCC. Filipinos sending billions of dollar foreign currency from GCC every year. As arab we are monitoring Filipinos commitment to Israel. Filipinos cant take GCC as a place to make bread and butter without giving nothing in return. Getting GCC petro money and hating GCC people will not be accepted. Philippines must cut all diplomatic relation with Israel if they continue to send workers to middle east.

  3. I think it is better if Aquino does not engage foreign countries. We do not want him unleashed on the world. He will bring the PH to a new low on the international stage when he does not do anything he says he will do.

  4. danilo de leon on

    A very sound advice. PH will benefit immensely from a robust economic relationship with israel especially in the fields of agricultural technology ,; nformation technology and other science based industries.