Philippines thanks South Korea for COVID-19 supplies, vaccine donations at onset of pandemic

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong met on Sunday to reaffirm their commitment to work together in elevating both nations’ relations towards a strategic partnership.

The two ministers noted both nations’ bilateral cooperation in various areas particularly in defense, trade and investment, people-to-people exchanges, and in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, during the ASEAN-G7 Foreign Ministers Meeting held in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Locsin thanked South Korea for being one of the first countries to help the Philippines at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic by donating face masks, testing kits, and $2.5 million worth of cold chain facilities and equipment.

On November 30, Korea also donated 539,430 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines.

Both ministers agreed on reviving the economic interaction amid the pandemic, noting that the entry of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) under the Employment Permit System (EPS) contribute greatly to the labor force of small and medium-sized companies in South Korea.

There were about 85,000 Koreans who were working and studying in the Philippines before the pandemic. At least 48,000 Filipinos were living in South Korea.

Locsin also expressed optimism for the two countries’ bilateral trade outlook with the conclusion in October 2021 of their negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Once signed, this will be the second FTA of the Philippines with a single country. Locsin also thanked South Korea’s continuous Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines.

The importance of defense and security, as well as maritime cooperation, was also highlighted in the meeting given the Philippines’ current maritime issues and South Korea’s interest in sustainable oceans and fisheries management.

Locsin said that South Korea’s delivery of two guided missile-capable frigates built by the Hyundai Heavy Industries–the BRP Jose Rizal and BRP Antonio Luna–have “substantially enhanced the Philippine Navy’s maritime domain awareness and deterrence capabilities.”

Locsin also welcomed South Korea’s initiative to deepen its engagement with countries in Southeast Asia under Korean President Moon Jae-in’s New Southern Policy Plus.

Both ministers likewise exchanged views on regional and international issues such as the developments in the West Philippine Sea, North Korea, and candidatures in international organizations.–Giselle Ombay/LDF, GMA News

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