Visit of Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende Highlights Strong Phl-Norway Engagement and Cooperation
09 January 2014 – Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario welcomed today Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende in his first visit to the Philippines. The three-day visit, from January 07 to 09, nine weeks after Minister Brende assumed his position as Norway’s Foreign Minister, highlights the strength of Philippines-Norway relations – from political and economic cooperation, to people-to-people exchanges.
Secretary del Rosario thanked Minister Brende for Norway’s substantial support of US$41.3 million to typhoon-related relief efforts in Central Philippines and for Norway’s keen interest in the Philippines’ recovery and reconstruction efforts to build back better and establish climate-resilient communities.
“We are deeply moved by the Norwegian Government’s immediate response, which ranged from financial assistance and relief goods, to the deployment of volunteers and an “Experts on Mission,” Secretary del Rosario said.
Minister Brende himself visited some of the affected areas on 08 January to gain insights on how Norwegian assistance has been utilized and to see how Norway could further contribute to theReconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) program. Norway will not only encourage other European partners to meet the US$ 788 million UN appeal which now stands at 42%, but also consider helping further the fisherfolks and farmers affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
The two ministers discussed Norway’s participation in the country’s peace processes, given that Norway is the Third-Party Facilitator in the peace talks between the Philippine Government and CPP-NPA-NDF on the one hand, and also a member of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in the Mindanao Peace Process, on the other.
The ministers likewise welcomed their mutually beneficial maritime cooperation. Norwegian-owned, operated or maintained vessels employ some 21,000 Filipino seafarers. The Norwegian Shipowners Association has maintained a state-of-the-art Maritime Training Center in Taguig and plans to expand further its training facilities. Norway has shared its technical expertise to ensure thatthe Philippines complies with the Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW).
Minister Brende’s visit served as a fitting backdrop to the holding of the 1st Philippines-Norway Bilateral Consultations last January 08. Office of European Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson co-chaired the meeting together with Mr. Tore Hattrem, Director General of the Regional Development Office in Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The consultations covered current, bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of common concern.
Aside from the peace process and maritime cooperation, the Bilateral Consultations also provided an opportunity to discuss cooperation in other areas such as trade and investment, labor, education, renewable energy and disaster management.
“Norway wants to do more strategic investments that can unlock growth and more on the PPPs,” Foreign Minister Brende confirmed during the meeting today with Secretary del Rosario.
With its current demographic challenges, Norway has agreed to explore the possibility of establishing a mechanism for the systematic employment of Filipino healthcare workers. Norway has also committed to participate actively in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Conference to be held in Manila in September this year. In the regional and multilateral arena, developments in ASEAN, ASEM and the Arctic Council were discussed. The Philippines and Norway agreed on the importance of preserving freedom of navigation, maritime security and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, specifically UNCLOS.
Before concluding his working visit to the Philippines, Foreign Minister Brende will call on President Benigno S. Aquino III this afternoon where further strengthening of cooperation between the Philippines and Norway is expected to be discussed. END