PH, Chile eye free trade, enhanced disaster cooperation

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Chile signed two agreements during the first-ever state visit of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to the country on Monday, November 16.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on disaster risk reduction and management and a letter of intent (LOI) for a joint study for free trade between Chile and the Philippines.

The MOU, signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Heralod Muñoz, “aims to institutionalize cooperation” between the two countries in preparation for and during natural disasters. 

“One such area in which we have displayed our solidarity is that of disaster relief and response. In the aftermath of [Super] Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in 2013, our embassy in Santiago was overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy and assistance from Chileans across society. The Philippines likewise displayed its solidarity with Chileans in the aftermath of the recent earthquake in north-central Chile,” Aquino said during the joint press statement. 

The LOI, signed by Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo and Muñoz, signifies the Philippines and Chile’s goal to discuss a beneficial trade agreement between the two countries. 

This, according to Aquino, may result in “increase in trade, in goods and investments, and the promotion of technical cooperation in areas of mutual interest.”

“Our wish is to start negotiation during the first semester of 2016 because we think it would be good way to commemorate the 70 years of diplomatic relations between both countries,” Bachelet said.

The Chilean president said that the Philippines was the first Southeast Asian country to have ties with Chile nearly 70 years ago.

With the economic agreement, Aquino boasted of the partnership in geothermal energy exploration between Philippine company Energy Development Corporation and Alterra Power Corporation, a Canadian-based company that has a subsidiary in Chile.

Both Aquino and Bachelet are “hopeful” that it would encourage more business activities between the two countries.

‘So much potential’

With Bachelet’s state visit, Aquino said they have agreed to conduct “more regular official exchanges to maximize” the relationship of the two countries.

“Thus, recognizing the significant momentum that has now been generated by this visit, President Bachelet and I committed to intensify engagement between our countries in multiple areas, which includes the observance of more regular official exchanges. This will allow us to bring the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Chile to a higher and more comprehensive level,” Aquino said.

The diplomatic relationship between Manila and Santiago, Aquino said, have so much potential for growth, citing education and aquaculture as examples.

Aquino said Filipinos could teach English language in Chilean schools, just as both countries could learn from each other on the aquaculture industry.

Aside from the formal agreements signed, Aquino said he and Bachelet have agreed to facilitate “better coordination” between the Philippines’ and Chile’s law enforcement agencies to fight transnational crimes. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email