Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Mohammadi and Minister Mojtaba Nadali answer questions from Times editors at a roundtable discussion at The Times office on Friday. Photo By Ruy Martine

    IRAN is willing and able to help the Philippines solve the power crisis in Mindanao, but such cooperation may not be that simple to pursue given the “mental barriers” that exist in light of Iran’s strained relations with the West.

    Against the backdrop of United States sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, the Philippines—a US ally—is understandably reluctant to seek out the help of oil-rich Iran, careful not to antagonize Washington.

    “There are mental barriers that are limiting your country from receiving what we can offer,” Iran Ambassador to the Philippines Ali Asghar Mohammadi said at a roundtable discussion with The Manila Times on Friday.

    “This is the time to find the means and think of the future. Iran is more than willing to help in any way we can,” Mohammadi stressed.

    As an important trade partner of the Philippines in the Middle East, Iran supplied the country between 70,000 and 110,000 barrels of oil a day in 2006. Two years later, Iran agreed to invest $125 million in the local petrochemical market.

    However, because of the US sanctions in place, the Philippines stopped importing oil from Iran at the end of March 2012. For 2011, it imported 5.9 million barrels of crude oil from the Islamic nation.

    “Iran has the energy and technology. We can solve your power shortage. But the move should not come from us,” said Mohammadi.

    “We are in a position to help in the advancement of the Philippines. We have enjoyed good relations in the past,” he added.

    Besides energy, cooperation between Iran and Philippines covers culture, education, food and infrastructure.

    Both countries also agreed to ensure better labor conditions for Filipino maritime workers with the signing of a memorandum of agreement after the meeting of the Diplomatic Conference of Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping in 2010.

    On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Iran-Philippines relations on January 22 and the Iranian New Year or Nowruz on March 21, the Embassy is seeking to explore the possibility of a visit by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to Iran and also by President Hassan Rouhani to Manila soon.

    Iran and the Philippines began establishing diplomatic relations on January 22,1964.

    “It will be interesting to see your president [Aquino] visit our country and for President Rouhani to come over. It’s something we are looking forward to,” said Mohammadi.

    Part of Iran’s program to celebrate the 50th anniversary is a cultural exchange, for which a draft agreement is now being prepared for signing within the next three months.

    Mohammadi added that aside from cultural exchange, Iran is also active in helping sports development in the Philippines.

    Last year, national karate and wrestling athletes attended training camps in Iran.
    This year, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Ricardo Garcia is scheduled to visit Iran for a possible sports team exchange program.


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