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India-Philippines Bilateral Brief

India and the Philippines formally established diplomatic relations on 26 November 1949, shortly after both countries gained independence [Philippines in 1946 and India in 1947]. Sixty years of diplomatic relations was celebrated in 2009.

The relations between the two countries have been cordial, though the full potential is yet to be realized. It would be fair to say that despite several shared values and commonalities, such as anti-colonialism, South-South cooperation, a strong democratic polity, an independent judiciary and press, and the wide use of the English language, relations between the two countries have been relatively unexplored and reflects a lack of informed knowledge about one another.

When India launched her Look East Policy and intensified partnership with ASEAN in 1992, this also resulted in intensified relations with countries in the region including Philippines, both bilaterally and as a regional grouping. The relationship with Philippines has intensified since then in political-security; economic and people-to-people interactions. Coupled with current developments in the Philippines, the stage appears to be set for further intensification in bilateral relations, covering the broad canvas of consultations and cooperation on matters related to foreign policy, security, defence, trade, tourism, people-to-people relations and culture. Furthermore, strengthened ASEAN-India relations have had a positive impact on bilateral relations, especially with accelerated impetus given to trade and investment.

Political, Security and Defence: High level visits and interactions between India and the Philippines have seen intensification especially since the initiation of ASEAN-India Summit level partnership and establishment of East Asia Summit, of which India is a founding member. The year 2017, in particular, was marked by unprecedented high level exchanges to the Philippine culminating in the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Philippines to attend the 31st ASEAN and EAS Summits in Manila from November 12-14, 2017. This was followed by a back to back visit when President Duterte visited India from Jan 24-26, 2018 to attend the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit and Republic Day celebrations. During his visit to Manila, Prime Minister Modi had extensive engagements including attending the Gala dinner and the opening ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of ASEAN/EAS, RCEP and India-ASEAN Summit. Apart from multilateral engagements, Prime Minister has a significant bilateral meeting with President Duterte followed by signing of five MoU’s on Defence Industry and Logistics Cooperation, MoU between ICWA and FSI, MoU on Cooperation on Agriculture, MoU on MSME and MoU between ICCR and Univ of Philippines for setting up a chair of India studies. He also visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Mahaveer Philippines Foundation Inc (MPFI), a NGO dealing with artificial prosthetics ( Jaipur foot) and announced a grant of US $ 200,000 for upgradation of its equipment as well as free distribution to 250 needs Filipino beneficiaries. Prime Minister Modi also engaged the business community by delivering the key note address at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit ( ABIS) and an address to the Indian diaspora.

President Duterte led a strong delegation of eight cabinet ministers when he visited India for the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit and Republic Day Celebrations from Jan 24-26, 2018. During the visit, he had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi followed by a signing of MoU between Invest India and Board of Investments for promotion of Investments. During his visit, President Duterte also interacted with the business community. The two bilateral meetings in quick succession has reinvigorated the bilateral relationship. The Government of India recently conferred the prestigious Padma Shri Award to Mr. Joey Concepcion, the Presidential Advisor for Entrepreneurship and Chairman of ASEAN Business Advisory Council in the Philippines for his contribution in the field of Trade and Industry. He received the award from the President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind on 2 April 2018 at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.

The annual ASEAN/EAS Summits have provided an excellent platform for regular meetings between leaders from both countries in the past. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a bilateral meeting with President Aquino of Philippines in November 2014 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar during the ASEAN-India/EAS summit. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh visited Cebu, Philippines in 2007 for the ASEAN-India and the East Asia Summit. The Vice President of the Philippines Mr. Jejomar C. Binay led a high-powered delegation, which included Secretary, DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) of the Philippines Mr. Del Rosario, to India in December 2012, for the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi.

Following the visits of the Philippines Vice President Diosdado Macapagal in 1961 and the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1981, the ‘Look East policy’ resulted in increased frequency of high-level contacts and saw visits by, Presidents R. Venkatraman [1991] and Abdul Kalam [2006], Cabinet Ministers and other political dignitaries from India. Similarly, from the Philippines, there have been visits by Presidents Fidel Ramos [1997] and Gloria Arroyo [2007], Cabinet Ministers and other high level political dignitaries.

Three meetings of Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), the highest formalised dialogue mechanism at the level of Foreign Ministers have been held, the last one in October 2015 in New Delhi. Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines Albert F. del Rosario visited India on 14 October 2015 for the 3rd JCBC. During the visit, he called on the Vice-President of India and also delivered the 2nd Nehru-Rizal Lecture. External Affairs Minister Sh. Salman Khurshid visited Manila from 21-23 October 2013 for the 2nd JCBC meeting and delivered the inaugural ‘Rizal-Nehru Memorial lecture’ at the Foreign Service Institute of Department of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Policy Consultations and Security Dialogue meetings between the two countries have been taking place regularly and the 12th Policy Consultations/3rd Strategic Dialogue was held in New Delhi on February 2017 where the entire gamut of India-Philippine relationship was discussed. The Indian side was led by Ms. Preeti Saran, Secretary (East) and from the Philippine side by Enrique Manalo, Undersecretary, Policy. Former Commerce and Industry Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman visited Cebu, Philippines for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Inter-Sessional Ministerial Meeting on 3-4 November 2016.As the present Raksha Mantri she visited Clark, Pampanga to attend the 4th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus from 23-25 October,2017. Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Shri. Suresh Prabhu visited Manila to attend the ASEAN-India Economic Ministers’ Meeting from September 7-11, 2017.Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen (Retd) V.K. Singh visited Manila from 6-9, August 2017 to attend the ASEAN India/7th East Asia Summit/24th ASEAN Regional Forum/10th Mekong-Ganga Cooperation meeting. During the meeting, he had a fruitful bilateral meeting with his counterpart from Philippines. Dr. Nasim Zaidi, Chief Election Commissioner visited Manila from 19-21, March, 2017 to participate in the Executive Board Meeting and the General Assembly of the Association of Asian Election Authorities. Recently on 3rd August 2018 (MOS VKS) met Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Alan Peter Cayetano on the sidelines of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting at Singapore.

The Philippines supported India’s candidature for the non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council for the term 2011-12 and there is regular consultation between delegations of both countries in the UN and other multilateral fora. Several Foreign Service officers from the Philippines have attended the ASEAN diplomats’ course that is held at the Foreign Service Institute in India.

The mainstay of bilateral defence cooperation continue to capacity building and training, exchange visits of delegation and ship visits. Secretary, National Defense, Delfin Lorenzana visited India with a five member delegation for a bilateral visit from 8-11 March where he met Raksha Mantri. He also visited defence establishments and defence equipment production centres in India. Philippines also participated in the Def-Expo in April 2018. Indian navy and coast guard ships regularly visit the Philippines and hold consultations with their counterparts. ICGS Shaurya visited Manila from December 1-5, 2017, INS Satpura and INS Kadmatt visited Manila from 3-6 October 2017, Indian Coast guard Ship ICGS Samarth visited Manila from 7-10 January 2017, INS Sahyadri and INS Sakthi visited Manila on a goodwill visit to Subic Bay from 30 May -2 June 2016;INS Sahyadri visited Manila from 1-4 November 2015; and from 20-23 August 2014; ICGS Samudra Paheredar visited Manila from 19-22 September 2014; a flotilla of four Indian ships from the Eastern Fleet, namely INS Shakti, INS Satupura, INS Ranjit and INS Kirch visited Manila on a goodwill visit from 12-16 June, 2013. The participation of officers of the armed forces of both countries in various specialized training courses in each other’s countries has intensified, as have visits by National Defence College (NDC) delegations, including the first ever NDC visit from the Philippines to India. A delegation from the College of Defence Management of India visited Philippines from 23-31 October 2015; a delegation from Army High Command Course of India visited the Philippines from 10-14 November 2014. INTELLEX meetings have contributed towards sharing and exchanging information on a range of sensitive issues; the last INTELLEX meeting took place in Manila in January 2015 with the previous one being held in New Delhi in February 2013. In recognition of the need to further strengthen defence cooperation, the Joint Defence Cooperation Committee was constituted and had its first meeting in Manila in January 2012 followed by the 2nd meeting in New Delhi on 24 March 2017.

Government of India sent an Indian Air Force flight with relief material for the victims of super typhoon ‘Haiyan, which struck Philippines on 7-8 November 2013. Following the tragic loss of life, livelihood and property as a result of typhoon Pablo/Bopha, which struck southern Philippines in December 2012, the Government of India provided disaster relief assistance of $200,000 to the Philippines Government and $ 100,000 as disaster relief assistance following the October 2013 earthquake in Bohol. India announced an immediate relief assistance of $ 500,000(equivalent to 25 million pesos) on 11 July 2017 for the relief and rehabilitation efforts underway in the city of Marawi which had come under siege on May 23, 2017 after armed terrorists belonging to the Maute group owing allegiance to ISIS took over the city.

Trade and Commerce: Economic relations have grown gradually over the years. Despite the impact of the India-ASEAN FTA in Goods, the India-Philippines trade has, so far, been at around $1.981 billion in 2016-17. In the year 2016-17, India’s exports amounted to worth USD 1487 million and imports worth USD 494 million. However, a number of growth drivers suggest a major and sustained growth in two-way trade and investment, helped by the conclusion of the India-ASEAN Trade in Services and Investment Agreements. Indian investment in the Philippines is mainly in the areas of textiles, garments, IT&ITes, steel, Airports, chemicals, Automobiles and pharmaceuticals.

Some of the major Indian investments in Philippines are the Aditya Birla Group in textiles & Chemicals (Indo Phil Group), and the Ispat Group in Steel. A recent major entrant has been the GMR group Ltd, who in collaboration with a local company Megawide, won the bid in April 2014 for upgrading and running the Cebu-Mactan airport project for the next 25 years and have commenced operations in November 2014. They have also won the bid for Clark International airport expansion. Tata Motors and Mahindra have made their presence felt in the Automobile sector. Collaboration in the BPO sector has grown exponentially in the last few years. Several Indian IT companies have already set up BPO operations in the Philippines and these include companies like WIPRO, TCS, L&T Infotech, Innodata, IL&FS Genpact, Infosys, HIGS (Hindujas), Tech Mahindra etc. This close partnership in IT & BPO has become a win-win situation for both countries. Similarly we have a strong presence in Pharma (Generics) where Pharma majors like Dabur Pharma, Lupin, Torrent, ZydusCadilla, and Claris Life sciences have set up liaison office to promote their products. Lupin has also acquired a stake in a local company. Estimated Indian investments in the Philippines are valued at more than US $ 650 million. During the last few years, Indian companies have successfully executed some small and medium sized projects in the Philippines. Kalpataru and Kamani Engineering Corporation are presently engaged in executing transmission line projects in the Mindanao regions of the Philippines. Other engineering firms have been repairing and setting up sugar plants for Philippine companies.

Various Joint Working Groups [JWG] have been set up and their meetings, particularly the JWG on Trade and Investment, on Agriculture, on Health, on Tourism and on Renewable Energy are expected to identify new growth and partnership areas between government and industry in both countries and contribute towards enhanced two-way growth in trade and investment. Recently, the 3rd JWG on Health and 2nd JWG on Agriculture took place in Manila in April and May 2018 respectively. Also the India-Philippines ‘Air-Consultation Talks’ were held on 11-12 July 2018. Additionally, consultations on science and technology, defence, and other areas are also expected to have their flow-on impact. The Engineering Export Promotion Council of India(EEPC) for the first time held its flagship Technology Expo INDEE-2018 in Manila which around 75 Indian companies participated.

ITEC and Culture: Philippines is one of the beneficiaries of programmes under ITEC and Colombo Plan. During 2017-18, Philippines used majority of the 65 civilian slots under ITEC and Colombo Plan. Similarly, about 30 slots are allotted for defence which are also been utilised. So far almost a thousand Filipino nationals have benefited under these schemes, covering a wide range of technical courses, such as rural development, agriculture, renewable energy, small scale industries, banking, finance and management, quality control and marketing, planning and public administration, textiles, parliamentary studies and legislative practices, computer software, water resources management, defence, etc.

We have a Cultural Exchange Programme between the two countries and an Executive Programme on Cultural Exchanges (2016-18) was signed between the two sides in October 2015. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in November 2017, a MoU between ICCR and University of the Philippines Diliman (UP) was signed for the establishment of ICCR Chair of Indian Studies at the Asian Center, UP. A five-member group sponsored by ICCR of renowned Dhrupad vocalists, Gundecha Brothers, visited the Philippines from 29 September to 2 October, 2013. An 8-member cultural troupe, Rondalla Ensemble participated from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) of Philippines in the Grand Finale of IIC Experience organised by the India International Centre in New Delhi from 17-24 October 2013. The University of Philippines staged a musical adaptation of Indian epic, 'Mahabharata' in their theatre in February-March 2014 and buoyed by the success, this was staged again in July 2014. An Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) sponsored 6-member Odissi dance troupe led by Ms. Nandini Ghosal visited Philippines in June 2015 and performed at the Asia Pacific College, Makati, Manila on 27 June 2015; and at the Davao Medical School Foundation Auditorium on 28 June 2015; a 5-member musical troupe Krosswindz visited the Philippines from 19-22 November 2015 and performed in Manila. T.M. Krishna, Carnatic vocal artiste performed in Manila on 1 September 2016. An ICCR sponsored 7 member delegation led by Ms. Jayaprabha Menon visited the Philippines from May 8-11, 2017 to participate in the Dance Xchange Festival.

We have regular Indian cultural events in Manila and other parts of the Philippines such as Indian National Days (Republic Day & Independence Day), Indian Festivals (Holi, Diwali etc.) and other important events (Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas, International Yoga Day etc.). We also have local Indian clubs, who also organize cultural events in the Philippines, including a Flute Concert by Shashank in March 2014 and by vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande in October 2014. As mentioned earlier, an Indian community reception was held during the visit of Prime Minister Modi on 13 November 2017 and another was held during MoS (VKS) to Manila from August 6-9, 2017. As part of the Embassy’s effort to promote culinary diplomacy, an Indian Food Festival was organized from September 11-17 in collaboration with the Sofitel Hotel, Manila. The Indian cuisine was also showcased during the Taste of the World Festival at the Adamson University on 6 December, 2017. The Embassy of India has also participated in the DFA’s year-end diplomatic reception and fashion show, “Colours of Asia Pacific” on 13 December, 2017.

Significant effort is also exerted to further deepen the people-to-people cooperation between India and the Philippines. The Philippines participated in the 9th Delhi Dialogue with the theme “ASEAN-India Relations: Charting the Course for the Next 25 years” from 04-05 July 2017. A 10-member youth delegation from National Youth Commission of the Philippines attended the first-ever ASEAN-India Youth Summit with the theme “Shared Values, Common Destiny.” The Youth Summit was organized by the India Foundation, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and State of Madhya Pradesh to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN-India Dialogue Partnership in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh from August 14 to 18. The 3rd Annual Indian Independence Friendship Cup (Golf Tournament) was also organized on 15 August as part of the 25th anniversary celebration. A Filipino artist, Mr. Dennis Gonzales participated in the ASEAN-India Artists’ Camp held in Udaipur from 20-29 September 2017, also a seven member music band named Ransom Collective participated in ASEAN-India Music Festival in New Delhi from 6-8 October 2017, both the events were organized by MEA in collaboration with SEHER. In addition, Mr. Paul Andrew C. Orpiada of the Philippines was awarded the Achiever Corporate Social Responsibility Award during the ASEAN-India Youth Awards Ceremony which was held in New Delhi on 23 January 2018.

Under the ASEAN-India rubric, journalists from the Philippines have been regularly visiting India, the latest being in January 2018 when two journalists from the Philippines namely Mr. Edu Punay (Philippine Star) and Ms. Jeannette Andrade (Philippine Daily Inquirer) visited India for the ASEAN-India Media Exchange Programme. Indian journalists have also visited the Philippines. In addition, every year 25 Philippine students in the 17-28 age group visit India, the latest being in 14-23 January 2018, under the ASEAN-India Students Exchange Programme; and 3 school children visit India to participate in the National Children Science Congress. Shri Yashovardhan Azad, Central Information Commissioner of India delivered lectures in the Philippines on 1-2 December 2014 under the ASEAN-India Eminent Persons Lecture Series and Undersecretary for Policy in the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Mr. Evan P. Garcia visited India under the same programme from 15-17 July 2015. In addition, we have regular interaction between the parliamentarians, think tanks, farmers, and diplomats. A student of the University of Philippines has been selected for a scholarship named ‘propagation of Hindi abroad’ administered by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to study Hindi language at the Kendriya Hindi Sansthan in Agra.Like the earlier 3 years, this year also International Day of Yoga was celebrated in the Philippines with great zest and fervour. This time the celebration was held at various venues in Manila, Baguio and Davao with the collaboration of various Filipino government offices like the National Youth Commission, Department of Health, Philippine National Police, City Government of City of Taguig and Muntinlupa along with local Yoga teachers and Yoga enthusiasts.

Indian Community: The Indian community in the Philippines, according to the Bureau of Immigration, is estimated to be about 1, 20,000. Around 5,000 persons of Indian origin have acquired Filipino citizenship. Punjabis and Sindhis, constitute the bulk of the community. Since the last ten years, there are a growing number of professionals, estimated in the range of about 1500 persons, who are working in the Philippines, in organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, International Rice Research Institute, UN agencies, as also in multinational corporations, BPOs and with Indian joint ventures in the country.

The Philippines is also beginning to emerge as a destination for Indian students. There are more than 10,000 Indian students pursuing medical courses in various universities in the Philippines. Currently nearly, 50 percent of the students at the prestigious Asian Institute of Management in Manila are from India. The flying schools are also attractive as instructions are in English and students do not have to learn the local language. Several universities in the Philippines, such as, the University of Santo Tomas, the University of the Philippines, the University of the Visayas, Adamson University, the University of Mindanao and others have opened special ‘India chapters’ in their prestigious libraries, which houses collection of books on India [gifted through the Public Diplomacy division of the Ministry of External Affairs]. A bust of Mother Teresa has been installed at the University of Santo Tomas, gifted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

The resident Indian community is fairly active and they celebrate Indian festivals and organize various social events. The major association is the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. The Philippines-India Business Council, a sub-Committee of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, helps organize business networking meetings for visiting Indian business delegations. There are several places of religious worship, such as 28 Sikh Gurudwaras including Khalsa Diwan and several Hindu Temples. A number of other associations also exist such as Indian Ladies Club, Bharati Indian Expats Women’s Association and spiritual organisations such as Sri Satya Sai Organization, Art of Living, Chinmaya Ashram, Brahma Kumaris, Siddhi Yoga and Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

September 2018

Useful Resources:

Embassy of India, Manila website:


Embassy of India, Manila

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