Budapest, Hungary – The Philippines and Hungary successfully convened the 3rd Meeting of the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation (JCEC) under the co-chairmanship of Dr. Ceferino S. Rodolfo, Undersecretary for Industry Development and Trade Policy of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Deputy State Secretary for Export Development István Joó of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary. The two-day meeting was held in hybrid format with the first day conducted virtually and attended by Philippine-based government officials and representatives. The second day was a physical meeting in Budapest.
During the meeting, both the Philippines and Hungary agreed to pursue new collaborations in the areas of information and communications technology/digitalization, science, technology and innovation, energy, environment and TVET. Follow through discussions were made on the progress in earlier areas of cooperation covering trade, investments and manufacturing, water management, agriculture, food safety, education, transport, healthcare, culture and sports.
Undersecretary Rodolfo said “This 3rd JCEC is not just an opportunity for both sides to follow though our earlier agreements and decisions, but more importantly, to sustain our collaboration in enhancing our relations to benefit our economies and our people. While there are many challenges arising because of the pandemic, we have to bear in mind that these strategic partnerships are necessary elements in building a strong foundation towards recovery.”
The JCEC showcased the robust cooperation in the field of agriculture not only among respective ministries and departments, but also with the academe and private organizations. The Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences (MATE) concluded a material transfer agreement of vegetable seeds for testing and experimentation with the Bureau of Plant Industry and Barangay Don Bosco in Paranaque City. An intent for a machinery donation of a grader to PhilRice was also made during the visit of the JCEC delegation to MATE.
Hungary has been internationally recognized as having the expertise and technology in water management and treatment. At the JCEC, discussions continued to finalize the relevant agreements to avail of a tied aid loan package to implement the projects of the Laguna Lake Development Authority and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. The projects include an online water quality monitoring system in Laguna de Bay and its tributaries and the purchase of compact water treatment units for use during disasters and other emergencies. These projects are becoming increasingly important as the country responds to various environmental challenges and meet national sustainability goals.
The JCEC also recognized the full utilization in academic year 2020 of the allocated slots for Filipino students under the Stipendium Hungaricum scholarships. Thirty-four (34) Filipino students were awarded the scholarship and will pursue undergraduate, masteral and doctoral studies in various universities in Hungary specializing in agriculture and sustainable development, medicine, water management, engineering and hydrology, architecture and the protection of cultural heritage, natural sciences and environmental studies. Philippine utilization of the scholarships has been increasing with a total of 93 recipients since the implementation in 2016. The Philippines likewise invited Hungary to encourage their students and researchers to avail of the various programs offered in selected Philippine higher education institutions (HEIs). With the recent success of Filipino national athletes during the Tokyo Olympics, the Philippines also proposed for both sides to explore cooperation in sports education for tertiary-level sports coaches. With the passage of the Transnational Higher Education Act or Republic Act 11448, the Philippines also took the opportunity to invite Hungary to explore possible partnerships with HEIs providing opportunities for conduct of higher education programs in niche priority areas, twinning arrangements, and even establishment of Hungarian universities campuses in the country.
The meeting also paved the way for discussions on TVET cooperation and science, technology and innovation through MOUs being finalized by relevant agencies with their Hungarian counterparts. Discussions on transport cooperation are expected to commence soon with a draft MOU already tabled for consideration. Areas of cooperation were also firmed up in the areas of environment and ICT/digitalization.
Towards the conclusion of the JCEC, three agreements were announced. These include the Material Transfer Agreements of the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences with the Bureau of Plant and Industry and Barangay Don Bosco, Paranaque City and the Partnership Agreement between Startup Campus Inkubator Plc., Hungary and QBO Innovation Hub. The latter aims to capitalize on the rapidly growing start-up ecosystems in the country with government support in high growth services such as AI, Big Data, and fintech, among others.
Undersecretary Rodolfo stated that “there remains to be a lot of opportunities for both countries to take advantage of. As we face the task of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope to foster synergies based on each other’s strengths and our shared interests in the areas being discussed in the JCEC.”
Further to the areas of cooperation agreed, Hungary reiterated their strong support to the Philippines as a beneficiary to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) of the European Union (EU). The EU GSP+ is a unilateral trade arrangement which offers zero tariffs on more than 6,000 products to beneficiary countries exporting to the EU. The country is also supportive of the resumption of the negotiations on the PH-EU Free Trade Agreement and remains as one of our strongest supporter in the EU.
Hungary is ranked as the PH’s 49th trading partner (out of 225) in 2020. It is the country’s 11th largest export market in the EU. Additionally, Hungary is the Philippines 13th largest export destination in the EU for GSP+ products. Out of EUR 144 million worth of PH products exported to HU, EUR 10.83 million worth of PH exports used GSP+ preferences. Top export products to Hungary include electronics, machinery parts and accessories, and storage units, among others.
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