THE Philippines looked back to 70 years of relations with fellow former Spanish colony Cuba as it joined the rest of the world in extending condolences to the Cuban people on the passing of its former leader Fidel Castro, who died at the age of 90 on Saturday.
Manila and Havana opened a new chapter in their diplomatic relations under President Rodrigo Duterte, who had ordered the Department of Health to study the Cuban health system that flourished under Castro’s regime.
In a statement, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar called Castro a “revolutionary,” who upon assuming Cuba’s highest political office “reasserted his nation’s dignity and self-worth, stood up against the West and capitalism.”
“As it extols socialism, Cuba is one of the few societies that remain untouched by commercialism. As his nation’s father, Mr. Castro focused on health, education and literacy. His achievements in social development, such as establishing a universal health care and providing free education, became models for many developing nations with limited fiscal resources,” Andanar said.
In 1975, Castro signed a joint statement with then first lady Imelda Marcos in Havana to restore the two countries’ relationship that was disrupted in 1961 following the United States’ failed Bay of Pigs invasion of the Caribbean nation.
The Philippines, despite being a close ally of the United States, was among of those who voted against UN General Assembly resolutions on the US embargo against Cuba.
Manila and Havana enjoy bilateral cooperation in the fields of culture, sports, agriculture, health and biotechnology, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Cuban boxing trainers were hired for the Philippine national boxing team in early 2000 and six Filipino scholars are completing their studies in Cuba.
Agreements have likewise been signed between Cuban biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and Philippine companies to market affordable Cuban medicines to the Philippines.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial led a delegation of Philippine health officials to Cuba in August to study its healthcare system and a follow up visit will be conducted in the coming weeks to look into Cuba’s development and production of pharmaceutical products.
“Cuba and the Philippines enjoy historical and traditional bonds built on the political will of both governments, commonalities in vision and culture, and shared Spanish influence,” Cuban non-resident Ambassador to the Philippines Ibete Fernandez Hernandez said during the celebration of the longstanding ties in Makati City earlier this month.