The new Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Philippines, Jaroslav Olsa Jr., presented his letters of credence to President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd in Malacañang during a formal ceremony on September 10.
After his official accreditation, the ambassador shared his views on the Czech-Philippine relations, and covered the main topics of his tour of duty in the Philippines. These included “widening people-to-people contacts, supporting the Philippines through the development cooperation, increasing the mutually beneficial economic and investment cooperation, and aiming for better knowledge of both countries through public diplomacy and increased ties in the fields of culture and education.”
Czechs and Filipinos are bound by historical people-to-people ties, which started when early Czech missionaries came to the Philippines in the 17th century. Moreover, there are the well-documented friendships between Philippine National Hero, José Rizal, and professor Ferdinand Blumentritt, native of the Czech city of Litomìøice; as well as late presidents Václav Havel and Corazon Aquino, both fighters for democracy.
Since 2013, the Czech Republic started wider development cooperation with the Philippines. Seeing the scope of the tragedy brought by typhoon Yolanda, the Czech government as well as thousands of ordinary Czechs extended their help through humanitarian assistance.
In remembrance of the wide support of the Czechs to the Philippines, Ambassador Olsa presented to President Aquino a special gift—a framed original photo by internationally acclaimed and award-winning Czech photographer Jan Sibík, which he took in Tacloban shortly after the Super Typhoon Yolanda catastrophe.
In the emblematic photo, the Philippine national flag flies high above the wreckage left by the super typhoon, symbolizing the resilience of the people of the Philippines.
Today, three Czech NGOs—People in Need, Charita and Adra—are implementing their projects in various communities in Eastern Samar, Panay, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao.
Last year also saw an increase in economic cooperation between the Czech and Philippine republics. Since the global financial crisis the bilateral trade between both countries almost tripled, and as the Czech government seeks to further expand trade with South East and North East Asian countries, there are still many more possibilities and chances for mutually favorable increase of trade and investment.
As both republics are important tourist destinations, the state-run Czech Tourism agency is set to organize its very first tourism promotion campaign in Manila this year. There is therefore no doubt that tourism is to become another important topic in Czech-Philippines relations in the near future.
As the Czech government also co-finances projects in the field of biodiversity, protecting critically endangered species of birds and primates, Ambassador Olsa will work on bringing more Czech tourists to the Philippines to enjoy such unique features of the Philippines.
The Czech Republic is also looking to widen substantive cooperation in the fields of culture and education with the Philippines. It is to focus more on public diplomacy, creating a positive media and public knowledge about the Czech Republic, its culture and history, as well as to promote historical Czech-Philippine relations which go as far as 1680s.
Prior to his appointment as Ambassador to the Philippines, the diplomat served for six years in Korea. He was also previously the Ambassador to Zimbabwe with concurrent accreditation to five neighboring African countries (2000 to 2006).
Ambassador Olsa has been with the Czech Foreign Service since 1992. In Prague, he undertook assignments as Director of African Department (1996 to 1999), Acting Policy Planning chief (2007 to 2008), as well as Advisor to the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (1993 to 1996) in charge of arms control and trade.
He was awarded The Mark Palmer Prize of Community of Democracies for his work in support of the cause of democracy in Zimbabwe in 2011, and given Honorary Citizenship of the City of Seoul for the contribution to the cultural development of the capital of the Republic of Korea in 2012.
He received his degree in Asian and African Studies from Charles University, Prague. He also studied at University of Amsterdam and Bourghiba School of Living Languages in Tunis, as well as authored books on history and culture, and has edited anthologies of science fiction.