MANILA, Philippines – Norway doesn’t mind Malacañang’s “Norwegia” flub, it seems, and would rather discuss resuming peace talks with communist rebels.
Outgoing Norwegian Ambassador Erik Førner said he remains optimistic about peace talks between the Philippine government and communist rebels responsible for Asia’s longest-running insurgency.
“Although there has been a postponement of the planned formal round in Oslo this month (June 2018), I am optimistic that it will be back on track very soon, but this is of course up to the parties to decide,” Førner said in a statement on Monday, June 18.
Førner recently paid President Rodrigo Duterte a farewell call in Malacañang. A photo of their meeting went viral online after Malacañang’s social media staff named his country “Norwegia” instead of Norway. (READ: After ‘Norwegia’ gaffe, Roque hopes PCOO can boost spell-checking)
Førner’s press release in the wake of the social media firestorm made no mention of Malacañang’s error.
Norway is a third party facilitator in the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front representing the rebels.
“Facilitating the peace processes in the Philippines is both a challenging yet a rewarding task,” he said.
Norway, a rich country with a small population of more than 5 million people, has a strong relationship with the Philippines.
Førner said maritime cooperation is the “cornerstone” of ties between the two countries. Norway is the world’s 6th largest shipping nation, and its vessels employ up to 25,000 Filipino seafarers.
Norway also supports the Bangsamoro peace process in Mindanao, taking part in the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) that helps make sure violence is avoided and ceasefires are respected.
Førner said he is also looking forward to stronger trade relations with the Philippines as Philippines – EFTA Free Trade Agreement (FTA) recently came into force.
“This FTA will improve bilateral economic relations and hopefully boost trade between our two nations,” he said.
Førner celebrated the Order of Sikatuna – one of the Philippines highest-ranking diplomatic awards – conferred on him by Duterte.
“It is truly a great honor to receive the award from the president himself, and this is a beautiful exit for me after four fantastic years in the Philippines,” Førner said.
Førner is saying goodbye to the Philippines after 4 years of service as Norway’s ambassador. He is moving to Switzerland. – Rappler.com