India-Philippines Bilateral Relations

Brief Brief on India-Philippines Bilateral Relations

 


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]. Relations have been friendly with shared values and commonalities, such as vibrant democratic polity, pluralistic society, rule of law, an independent judiciary and free press, and the widespread use of the English language. However, it would be fair to say that despite shared values and complementarities, the full potential of the relationship between the two countries is only gradually being realized.


Culturally, while many of the countries in the region enjoyed civilizational links with India, in the case of the Philippines, this is yet to be fully explored and documented in a systematic way. However, the presence of numerous words with Sanskrit roots in Tagalog(the local language) and objects such as the Laguna Copper Plate inscription, the oldest artifact discovered in the Philippines written in Kavi derived from Pallava script; the golden statue of Agusan Tara; and the localized version of Indian epic Ramayana (Maharadia Lawana) testify to the historical links between the two countries.


When India launched the Look East Policy and intensified partnership with ASEAN in 1992, this also resulted in stronger relations with countries in the region including the Philippines, both bilaterally and in the regional context. With the Act East Policy initiated in 2014, the relationship with Philippines has diversified further into political-security; trade and industry and people-to-people realms. Coupled with current development trajectory in the Philippines, the stage appears to be set for further intensification in bilateral relations, covering a broad canvas of consultations and cooperation on matters related to foreign policy, security, defence, trade, finance, tourism, health, agriculture, people-to-people relations and culture.


1. Political relations:


(a) High level visits/Interactions:

Bilateral relations have strengthened over the years with the exchange of high level visits, telephonic conversations, virtual meetings, etc. which continued even during the Covid-19 pandemic. The year 2022 also saw many high level interactions. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi spoke over phone with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. [05 Aug] and congratulated him for his election as the 17th President of the Philippines. PM reiterated the important role that Philippines plays in India’s Act East Policy and its Indo-Pacific Vision, and expressed the desire to further expand bilateral relations. Earlier, EAM Dr. S Jaishakar visited Manila from 13 to 15 February and met Secretary of Foreign Affairs(SFA) Mr. Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. during which the whole gamut of bilateral relations was discussed. Upon EAM’s invitation SFA Locsin visited India on a bilateral visit from 23 to 26 April and also participated in Raisina Dialogue 2022 during the visit. On 30 June, Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, MOS(RRS) attended the inauguration of H.E. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as 17 th President of the Philippines as the Special Envoy of the PM. On 12 Nov, 2022 EAM met the SFA, Mr. Enrique A. Manalo on the sidelines of the 19th ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. Both took stock of the bilateral relations and agreed to explore the potential for further strengthening it.


In June 2020, PM had held a telephonic conversation with President Rodrigo Duterte during which PM assured President Duterte of India’s commitment to support the Philippines in its fight against the pandemic. In November 2020, EAM and SFA Locsin co-chaired the 4 th bilateral Joint Commission meeting in virtual mode. The two Foreign Ministers also held a telephonic conversation in April 2021 and discussed COVID-19 situation and the Indo-Pacific.


Other recent high level interactions include state visit of President Shri Ram Nath Kovind [October 2019 to mark 70 th anniversary of diplomatic relations], President Duterte (January 2018 for 25 th ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit) and Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi (November 2017 for 15 th ASEAN India Summit, with a strong bilateral component). EAM also met SFA Locsin in August 2019 on the margins of the 9th East Asia Summit (EAS) and 26th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Bangkok.


Past visits between the two countries include visit of the Philippines Vice President Diosdado Macapagal to India in 1961, stop-over visit of Philippines President H.E. Ferdinand E. Marcos [1976] and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the Philippines in 1981. The ‘Look East policy’ resulted in increased frequency of high-level contacts and saw visits to the Philippines 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 Macapagal Arroyo [2007], Cabinet Ministers and other high level political dignitaries


The annual ASEAN/EAS Summits have provided an excellent platform for regular meetings between leaders from both countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a bilateral meeting with President Aquino of Philippines in November 2014 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar during the 12 th ASEAN-India/9th EAS summit. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh visited Cebu, Philippines in January 2007 for the 5 th ASEAN-India and 2 nd East Asia Summits. The Vice President of the Philippines Mr. Jejomar C. Binay led a high-powered delegation to India in December 2012 for the 10 th ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi.


(b) Institutional Bilateral Mechanisms:

The umbrella bilateral mechanism is the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) co-chaired by EAM and the Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs, which met for the 4th time virtually on 06 November 2020. The meeting reviewed recent developments in bilateral relations and discussed the future trajectory of engagement in all the areas of mutual interests. Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines Albert F. del Rosario visited India in 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.


Official level foreign policy and security dialogue meetings have been held regularly (from 1994 and from 2004 respectively, when the security dialogue was upgraded to a ‘Strategic Dialogue’ at the 2 nd JCBC). The 13th Foreign Office Consultations(FOC) and 4th Strategic Dialogue(SD) was held in Manila on 17 August and 18 August 2022 respectively. The 12 th Foreign Office Consultations(FOC) & 3rd Strategic Dialogue(SD) was held in New Delhi on 27 February 2017. During the meeting, the entire gamut of India-Philippine relationship was discussed and views were exchanged on regional and global issues.


(c) Support at International Fora:

The Philippines has been supportive of a greater role for India in the UN Security Council. They supported our candidature for the non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council for the term 2021-22 as well as earlier in 2011-12. Philippines expressed support for the G-4 initiative for Security Council Reform at a meeting by all G-4 HOMs in Manila with Secretary for Foreign Affairs on 05 November, 2013 which was reiterated at the Foreign Policy Consultation/ Strategic Dialogue in March 2015. Philippines supported India in the recent election to IAEA, INTERPOL, IMO, CLCS and ITU. There are regular consultations 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 Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service(SSIFS) in India.


(d) Humanitarian assistance:

India has been offering humanitarian assistance to the Philippines from time to time, though at a modest level. In February 2006, in the aftermath of massive rock slide-debris avalanche in the province of Southern Leyte, which led to death toll of 1,126, Govt. of India provided around 28 tons of relief material worth US$260,000. Again in December 2006, GOI donated US$ 250,000 for relief and rehabilitation of communities affected by super typhoon Reming/Durian which resulted in 1399 deaths. 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 also sent 15 tonnes of relief material in the aftermath of the super typhoon Haiyan(Yolanda) which occurred in November 2013. We provided 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 from May 23, 2017 when armed terrorists belonging to the Maute group with reported allegiance to ISIS took over the city


2. Defence relations:


The main stay of bilateral defence cooperation continues to remain capacity building with training exchanges and visits of delegations and units of the Indian Navy (including aircraft) and Coast Guard. However, defence ties were significantly enhanced with the signing in January 2022 of a contract worth US$ 374.9 million to supply the BrahMos missile system.


Secretary, National Defense, Delfin Lorenzana visited India with a five-member delegation for the first ever bilateral Defence Ministerial visit from 09-11 Mar 2018. Apart from bilateral interactions with his counterpart, he also visited defence establishments and leading defence Industrial/ equipment production centres in India. Philippines participated in the Def Expo 2018 (11-14 Apr 2018 at Chennai) with a two-member delegation. Both countries signed an Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) on Defence Cooperation in 2006. A Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) at the Joint Secretary level was set up under this MoU, which has met three times so far, most recently on 31 Jan 2020. At the last JDCC Meeting, Service to Service Talks were also held between the representatives of Army, Navy and Air Force leading to a roadmap for enhanced military level engagement over the next three years.


The two countries also signed an MoU on Defence Industry and Logistics cooperation in Nov 2017 and have also set up a separate Joint Defence Industry and Logistics Committee (JDILC) under the MoU. This mechanism has met thrice, including recently on 11 March, 2022. MoU between Indian Navy and the Philippines Coast Guard on sharing of White Shipping information was signed on 18 Oct 2019. Indian Navy and Philippines Navy are also working on Hydrographic Cooperation.


Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships regularly visit the Philippines and hold consultations with their counterparts. INS Satpura made a port call to Manila from 3-7 June, 2022 for Operational Turn Around(OTR). Two Indian Navy Ships INS Ranvijay and INS Kora visited Manila from the 24-26 August 2021. The ships also undertook the first-ever bilateral Navy-to-Navy Passage Exercise in the West Philippine Sea during the visit. INS Kiltan visited Manila from 03 to 05 Jul 21. Other recent ship visits to Philippines include INS Sahyadri and INS Kiltan from Oct 23-26, 2019 and ICGS Shaunak from 01-05 Feb 2019 on the occasion of Indian Coast Guard Day.

The participation of officers of the armed forces of both countries in various specialized training courses in each other’s countries has intensified. This includes the recent course subscription from Philippines to India’s prestigious National Defence College(NDC) for the NSSS course, the first in several decades. An Indian Armed Forces officer has been regularly attending the prestigious Master in National Security Administration (MNSA) course in the Philippines National Defence College in the last several years.

High-level training visits remained a priority, in pursuance of which the delegations from the College of Defence Management of India visited Philippines from 26-30 Oct 2015 (HDMC -11) and from 22-26 Oct 2018 (HDMC-14). A 27-member delegation from the Indian Army War College, Mhow, also visited Philippines from 24 to 28 Sep 19. A 16 member delegation from the NDC visited Philippines twice from 22-25 May 2016 and recently from 05-10 June 2022.

3. Trade and Commerce:  

(a) Bilateral Trade
As per the official trade figures of Department of Commerce, GOI, bilateral trade between India and Philippines (in terms of value) increased from 1.89 billion USD in 2015-16 to 2.84 billion USD in 2021-22. There has been decline in the volume of bilateral trade since 2017-18, however, it has started growing back steadily and is expected to cross USD 3 billion mark.


 Financial Year  India's Export to Philippines  India's Import from Philippines Trade with Philippines 
 2015-16  1353.34  542.16    1895.50 
 2016-17  1482.52  494.62    1977.14
 2017-18  1692.83  764.36    2457.20
 2018-19  1743.64  581.10  2324.74
 2019-20  1525.96  572.47  2049.79
 2020-21  1457.30  572.47  2029.77
 2021-22  2107.24  729.08    2836.31


[in US$ million]


The major items of export from India to Philippines include engineering goods; automobiles part and accessories, transmission apparatus, electric transformers, petroleum products, semi-finished products of iron and steel; drugs and pharmaceuticals, organic and inorganic chemicals; electronic goods; plastic and linoleum: rice; bovine meat, oil seeds; tobacco; groundnuts and others. Philippines account for around 20% of total Indian pharma exports to the ASEAN region. The major items of import from Philippines include Electrical machinery; semi-conductors; ores, slag and ashes; copper, lead; plastics; pearls and precious stones; residue and waste from food industry; animal fodder and others.


In April 2022, an Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Custom Matters was signed which would facilitate trade.


(b) Bilateral Investments:

Indian investment in the Philippines has over the years been mainly in the areas of IT& ITES [BPO]; pharmaceuticals and healthcare; yarn and textiles; infrastructure (airport); chemicals; automobiles; agriculture; biomass energy; FMCG and others. Estimated Indian investments in the Philippines are valued around US $ 5 billion. Notable among these are Tata Consultancy Services (TCS); Infosys; Tech Mahindra; Wipro; HCL Technologies; HGS in IT-BPO Sector; Madras Security Printers, PeopleStrong, Ramco Systems Ltd (ITeS); TVS; Bajaj; Mahindra; Tata Motors in automobile sector; Lupin, Torrent, ZydusCadilla, Sun pharma, Hetero Drug, Claris Life sciences etc in pharmaceutical sector; Nephroplus in healthcare sector; Indo-Phil (Aditya Birla Group) in textile; Splash Corporation (Wipro) in FMCG sector; GMR Group (airport); Prasad Seeds, Advanta Seeds, Bioseeds, Agri Exim in agriculture; Thermax Instrumentation Ltd, ISGEC in biomass energy; Sun Source Energy in solar energy; UPL, Indofil, RM Chemicals in chemical sector; and others. Philippine investments in India have been modest in the past and mainly comprised companies like V. Merida (processing of waste), Ayala (Renewable energy, construction & ITES); SPI Technologies (ITES); Del Monte & Liwayway (Food processing); Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company (AG&P); Llyod Laboratories, IPI (Pharma). Recently, major investments have been made by Atlantic Gulf & Pacific (AG&P) and AC Energy Corporation in India.


(c) Financial Sector Engagement and Development Cooperation:

Financial Technology (Fintech) is one of the focused sectors identified by the leaders of both the countries. India and Philippines are working on finalizing MoU on Cooperation in the Fintech to expand cooperation. Further, to enhance Development Cooperation, both countries are finalizing an Agreement on Quick Impact Projects(QIP), which would open, for the first time a regular grant funding window for the Philippines.


(d) Agriculture:

Agriculture is another focused sector identified by the leaders of both the countries. India is working on sharing its expertise and experience with the Philippines in the agricultural field in line with the Philippines government’s focus on transforming agricultural sector for enhancing food security at affordable prices. Revised MoU on Cooperation in Agriculture and Related Fields between India-Philippines was signed on 13 November 2017. The 2 nd meeting of the India-Philippines Joint Working Group (JWG) on Agriculture was held on 18 May 2018 at Manila. Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare met Mr. William Dar, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Philippines in New Delhi on 21 April 2022 during which discussions on agriculture and blue economy werd held.


(e) Health and Medicine:

Health and Medicine is another focused sector identified by the leaders for bilateral engagement. The Philippines recognises India as a global leader in terms of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Philippines was the first ASEAN Member State to grant Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Presently, Philippines account for nearly 20% of total Indian pharma exports to the ASEAN region and India continues to be the largest supplier of pharma products to Philippines. An MOU on cooperation in Traditional Medicine between Philippines Institute of Traditional Medicine and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) and National Institute of Ayurveda, Jaipur was signed on 20 April 2022. Both countries are working on finalizing MOU in the field of Medical Product Regulation between CDSCO, GoI and FDA, Philippines. The 3 rd JWG Meeting on Health was held on 19-20 April 2018 in Manila, under the overall framework of India-Philippines MoU in the field of Health and Medicine signed in New Delhi on 5 October 2007.


(f) Tourism

A bilateral MoU on Tourism Cooperation was signed on 18 October 2019. The 1 st meeting of India-Philippines JWG on Tourism was held on October 8, 2020 which covered various issues to enhance two-way tourist flow. Discussions were held on expanding tourism flows, including direct air connectivity, links between travel bodies, ease of visa access for Indian nationals and synergies in promotional events. On September 27, 2021 the new Air Services Agreement was signed which is expected to facilitate direct air connectivity between India and Philippines. Sh. Arvind Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism met Ms Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Secretary, Department of Tourism, Philippines in April 2022 on the sidelines of World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)’s Global Summit held from 20- 22 April, 2022 in Manila.


(f) Other areas:
Bilateral Programme of Cooperation (POC) in Science and Technology, for the period 2019-2022 was signed in October 2019 outlining five broad areas of cooperation, namely agricultural biotechnology; health, pharmaceutical & medical sciences; Information and Communication Technology (ICT); Material Science & Technology; and Ocean & Atmospheric Science. In it’s first Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) in July 2021, implementing guidelines on the call for Joint Research Projects (JRP) were finalized and signed. Key research areas are Virology; Applications of Artificial Intelligence in diverse areas such as agriculture, health and smart cities; Block chain technologies on Government services/processes; and Additive manufacturing of new materials (metal and ceramics). 3 JRP proposals have now been identified for implementation.

A new area of engagement is Space Cooperation. 3 senior scientists from Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) participated in the 7th Edition of Bengaluru Space Expo in September 2022 which was jointly organised by CII in association with the ISRO, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL). Further, 2 candidates from PhilSA also attended ISRO’s UNNATI Training programme for nanosatellite building in October, 2022. Both countries are also working on finalizing MOU on cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space. In addition, India and Philippines are also exploring cooperation in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and Renewable Energy.

4. Training and Education: 

Philippines is one of the beneficiaries of India’s flagship capacity building programme – Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC). To date, over 1000 Filipino professionals have availed of courses offered. ITEC Day is celebrated every year by the Embassy that brings together ITEC alumni across the Philippines. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 17 and 108 Filipino professionals, in the years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 respectively, participated in several e-ITEC courses. Courses on Electoral Technology, Environmental Impact Assessment, Renewable Energy, Natural Resource Management and Public Health Management Development and Introduction to Ayurveda were among the popular c urses in the Philippines.  On the defence side, personnel from both the countries now participate in each other’s flagship training programmes. 7 Philippines defence personnel participated in defence ITEC courses held in India in the year 2020-2021, while 13 defence personnel participated in the year 2021-2022. In the CFY 2022-2023, 17 participants each participated in ITEC Regular courses & e-ITEC courses and 12 defence personnel participated in ITEC defence courses so far.

India also offers scholarships, tuition fee waivers to students from the Philippines under its ‘Doctoral Fellowship for India in ASEAN’ programme and the ‘Study in India’ programme. In terms of education collaboration, in May 2021, an MoU was signed between Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and Ateneo De Manila University, Manila to promote exchanges in the field of Disaster Studies. Recently, MoU between the Indian Maritime University and Batangas State University was signed on 11 November 2022 to enhance Blue Economy and Maritime cooperation in the academic domain.

5.    Culture: 
The Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) between the two countries was renewed for the period 2019-2023 during the President of India’s visit to the Philippines in October 2019. Indian cultural events are organised regularly in the Philippines in commemoration of Indian national days, Indian festivals (Holi, Diwali etc.) and other important days such as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, Consitution Day, Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas, etc. In May 2022, "Kwentong Jatataka" podcast was launched which comprised of 12 short and engaging stories from the Indian Jataka Tales translated into Filipino language. Further, 4 selected Indian folk songs with the signature chorale rendition by the Philippine Madrigal Singers was successfully produced and launched in Aug/Sep 2022 in collaboration with Philippine National Commission for Culture of the Arts to mark Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav (AKAM) celebration in the Philippines. In the past, to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, several events such as blood donation camps, tree plantation, bicycle rallies were organised in the Philippines. International Day of Yoga, Ayurveda Day are celebrated every year in the Philippines. Since March 2021, the Embassy has been organising several activities to mark AKAM–75 Years of India’s Independence. (Details available at https://www.eoimanila.gov.in/eoi.php?id=activities-in-the-philippines/)

6. Diaspora:

The Indian community in the Philippines is estimated to be around 1,50,000. Punjabis and Sindhis (80:20) constitute the bulk of the community. While the Sindhis are primarily engaged in trading, especially in the retail sector and also some manufacturing, the Punjabis, mostly from rural background are predominantly involved in micro-financing.

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 multilateral organizations as also in multinational corporations, BPOs and Indian joint ventures in the country. Together with dependents, their number is estimated at around 4000.


The major Indian business associations in the Philippines are the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines (FICCI-Philippines) and Indian Business Forum(IBF). The Philippines-India Business Council, a sub-Committee of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry, helps organize business networking meetings for visiting Indian business delegations. A recent addition to the Indian diaspora business organizations has been the launch of Indian Women in Enterprise (I-WE) Philippines, an organization bringing together women professionals and MSME women entrepreneurs.


There have been a number of Indian students coming to the Philippines for medical studies in recent years. With English being widely spoken in the Philippines, it has attracted students in the past also for Management (Asian Institute of Management has Indian students), Information Technology, Nursing, Christian Theology & Divinity, Church Music and Pilot training courses among others. It is estimated that there aremore than 16000 students currently, with the majority of them pursuing pre medicine/ medicine.


The resident Indian community is fairly active and they celebrate Indian festivals and organize various social events. There are cultural associations such as Indian Ladies Club, Bharati lndian Expats women's Association (comprising spouses of expats) and spiritual organisations such as Chinmaya Mission, Sri Satya Sai Organization, Art of Living, Mahaveer Foundation, Brahma Kumaris, etc. in the Philippines. There are several places of religious worship, such as Sikh Gurudwaras including Khalsa Diwan and Hindu Temples like ISKCON across the country.


29 November , 2022