Press Release
December 5, 2007


MADRID, SPAIN - Senator Edgardo J. Angara urged government officials and opinion leaders from both Spain and the Philippines to forge stronger relations through investment, tourism, trade, culture and education.

As it were during the last two years, Angara was invited to speak at the 3rd Tribuna España-Filipinas organized by Casa Asia, a public consortium led by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs which promotes relations between Spain and the countries of Asia and the Pacific.

Angara, the author of the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Act and Chairman of the Philippines-Spain Parliamentary Friendship Group, has on his agenda the signing of an agreement for academic exchange with different universities in Madrid and the Basque Country, as well as an agreement for sports cooperation with the Spanish Ministry of Sports. He is also meeting with prospective investors for the newly established Aurora Special Economic Zone Authority.

"Trade activities between Spain and the Philippines have declined. Spain is now only our 29th trading partner, which amounts to a mere 0.18% of our total trade," said Angara.

Angara harked back to the historic Manila-Acapulco galleon trade of the 16th century, which marked the first trade globalization in history. "We have no reason why we cannot blaze that route again and bring Philippine products to the bigger European market."

Spain has recently issued a new migration policy to open up their country to more and more people from their former colonies in North Africa and Latin America. "Where does the Philippines fit into this policy and what opportunities are given to us in order to take advantage of it?," he said.

"Moreover, there is a deep chasm in cultural and educational exchange between Spain and the Philippines. There appear no serious and programmatic steps taken to bridge it," said Angara.

Among the cultural and educational programs Angara proposed are Spanish language teaching, scholarships, and preservation of valuable colonial documents.

"Spanish language teaching is the fastest-growing educational activity in the Philippines. The desire and demand for learning the language is overwhelming," he said.

"As late as the 50s and the 60s, many of what became our future national leaders were beneficiaries of Spanish education. Today the United States, United Kingdom and Japan have become the Philippines' main sources of education and training. Why shouldn't Spain, our historical madre patria, become more involved in educating our people like it did hundreds of years ago when they built the first schools in the country?," he added.

"Lastly, the Philippines has many irreplaceable Spanish colonial documents that Spanish scholars visit to do research on. These documents are poorly stored in the national archives, and in danger of perishing," said Angara.

Spain has provided the Philippines 9 million euros a year, which is 50% of their ODA to Asia.

"But to me, this amount is really more symbolic. Much more important than money is the enhanced exchange of trade in goods and ideas," he said. In previous years, the Spanish government through its development arm Fundeso has funded coastal resources management programs the country, including Aurora.

Recently, Angara co-sponsored the Senate ratification of the Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons between the Republic of the Philippines and the Kingdom of Spain, which provides for the transfer of Filipinos incarcerated in Spanish prisons back to the Philippines, in order to advance their rehabilitation by being closer to their support system of family and friends in their own country.

Earlier on, the Philippine Congress voted to abolish the death penalty in the Philippine penal system, which the Spanish government commended.

"We also expect Spain to show concrete and specific steps and measures to demonstrate a reciprocal spirit," said Angara.

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