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High-powered Trade Mission from Cebu, RP Arrives Here
Ambassador Luis T. Cruz of the Philippines in action

A high-powered trade mission from Cebu, the Philippines arrives here on April 21 for a four-day visit for an inspection tour of Korean IT industries, Ambassador Luis T. Cruz of the Philippines said.

In an exclusive interview with The Seoul Times on April 18, he said that the mission will visit Korea IT International Cooperation Agency as well as Korea Association of Information and Telecommunication to get the first hand information about Korean IT industries.

While here through April 24, the mission will also observe the facilities of Seoul Data Center of Seoul Metropolitan Government and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Taejon, some 130 km south of Seoul.

"This is only one of many examples reflecting a growing number of business contacts between Korea and the Philippines against the backdrop of alliance between the Philippines and South Korea which has a long tradition," Amb. Crus said pointing out that both countries were staunch supporters of the United States during the cold War era, He was referring to the fact that the government in Manila was among the first to send troops to the Korean peninsula to defend the South against the invasion from the communist North.

"Bilateral relations are excellent. Our ties go a long way back, even before the Philippines became the fifth country to recognize South Korea when diplomatic ties were established on March 3, 1949," he went on to say adding that upon its landing in Busan on 19 September 1950, the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea proudly became the 10th Battalion Combat Team and the third UNC ground combat unit to enter the Korean War after the US and the UK.

Today, the bilateral relations have grown from a purely military collaboration to a wide-ranging partnership that covers political-security, development cooperation, economic and socio-cultural matters. South Korea is number one in the Philippines in many fronts, he added.

Last year, for instance, approximately 100,000 Korean students went to the Philippines for the ESL program, comprising almost 17% of total arrivals and making South Korea the biggest sender of students to the Philippines. South Koreans also topped our tourist arrivals last year with 654,000 visitors. Forty-seven percent (47%) of our foreign retirees last year, or around 2,620 enrollees, were South Koreans, he went on.

Touching on the bilateral ties in the economic areas, he said that Korean companies are very active in the sectors of shipbuilding, energy, manufacturing and infrastructure-building. Korean companies abound in investment zones and are generally well accepted. Koreans are known for their hard work, a trait which is undoubtedly one of its keys towards rapid industrialization. Companies like Samsung, KEPCO, Hanjin and POSCO are brand names that reflect the strength of Korean industry.

"With the continued influx of Korean investments to the Philippines, I will not be surprised if Korea gains another "Number One" in the Philippines this year number one in terms of FDI flow," he said.

South Korea was the top investor in the Philippines in 2006 owing to investments by Hanjin. South Korea has consistently been in our list of top 10 investors and this trend is expected to continue especially with Hanjin constructing another facility in Mindanao this year, he explained.

There are, right now, more Koreans in the Philippines than there are Filipinos in Korea-concrete indicator of increased people-to-people exchange. Recent estimates show that approximately 100,000 Koreans reside in the Philippines while around 50,000 Filipinos live here as students, professionals, spouses or workers.

"The Philippines is proud of its highly educated and globalized workforce. Our overseas workers not only help the economy of the Philippines through their remittances but also directly contribute to the development of the economies of their respective host countries.

According to the Philippine envoy, around eight million Filipinos actually fuel the economies of practically all nations by providing services as teachers, engineers, computer programmers, nurses, caregivers, factory workers, architects, household help, financial analysts and corporate decision-makers.

"The subject of exporting labor is definitely multi-dimensional, but one thing I wish to bring up is the amazing ability of Filipinos to adapt to local customs and quickly acquire necessary skills. Filipinos are known for their wit, reliability and ingenuity," he said.

In South Korea, the labor situation is unique because it is the only country where the Philippines has a government-to-government labor-sending arrangement. Under the Employment Permit System, Filipinos who wish to work in South Korea apply through the Philippine Government. South Korean employers also go through a similar process with the Ministry of Labor. he said

"Both countries will re-negotiate the agreement later this year once the current contract expires. We will be making appropriate recommendations regarding ways to further enhance this mutually beneficial arrangement at an appropriate time, continuously bearing in mind the welfare of our workers," he added.

When asked to tell us more about the Philippine tourism as a whole, he said that people-to-people exchange is one area where our relations are always vibrant.

Where business thrives, opportunities for promoting mutual understanding follow closely behind. Apart from its investments in shipbuilding, energy and manufacturing, South Korea may consider expanding to sectors such as electronics and industrial estate development; infrastructure-building for tourism, medical tourism and retirement; automotive parts and components-areas where the Philippines can be a production hub; education; mining and metal; film and creative arts; and pharmaceutical and biosciences.

"As you can see, there is plenty of space for us to explore and take advantage of our competencies.One particular area that we promote is the entry of Filipino English teachers to the Korean market. Korean law right now allows only speakers from native English-speaking countries as teachers of English," he said pointing out that these thinking needs to change and the qualifications of the candidate should be the foremost consideration, not their nationality.

"There are plenty of excellent English teachers in the Philippines who can help South Korea educate its people and instill a more global outlook. Filipinos have been hired as English teachers in countries like the US and Canada. Why can't South Korea,"he added.

He then suggested Korean students to go out of their shell. While there is logic in enrolling in exclusive schools because the need for students to adjust outside their cultural comfort zone is lessened, many opportunities for learning may be lost if the invaluable space for interaction readily offered by studying abroad becomes restricted.

"I would encourage students, whether they study in exclusive schools or not, to explore the world outside the confines of their classrooms. The enriching experience of knowing other customs and mindsets, of expanding one's horizons and discarding biases, is already laid out for foreign students they only need to grab the opportunity," he stressed adding that as with everything else, it is important for people to carefully consider the options when making a decision.

"When picking a school, I would recommend that students go through appropriate channels and select accredited institutes to ensure the quality of their stay and education," he concluded.






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