UAE, Philippines move to improve bilateral relationsBy Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The United Arab Emirates is looking to expand relations with the Philippines particularly in the areas of highly skilled labor, agriculture and environment studies.
Abu Dhabi Economic Development Undersecretary Mohamed Omar Abdullah said in a recent briefing that UAE’s interest in the Philippines rested “not only in labor but also in agriculture and other areas that would contribute to widespread economic development.”
In an interview in Abu Dhabi, Abdullah said both sides needed further discussions on cooperation in those areas but joint initiatives would come in time.
Demand for labor
Abdullah said Asia, in general, was a strategic growth partner for the UAE with the region’s potential growth of 8 percent yearly in terms of gross domestic product.
To further expand labor relations, UAE Minister of Labor Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash said in another briefing that Abu Dhabi had started publishing online the compensation packages for job openings. This is aimed at helping talents from the Philippines, India and Bangladesh find the best opportunities, he said.
Ghobash said that while the Emirati workforce was playing a growing role in UAE development, the emirates “will always need” expatriate residents from more than 200 different countries. He said UAE was especially interested in highly skilled workers such as accountants, engineers and medical practitioners from so-called supplier countries.
He said the UAE was also working with the International Labor Organization on various programs to eliminate human trafficking as well as abuse of employment, particularly in the construction sector.
On green initiatives, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) Secretary-General Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak said the Philippines was one of the target countries for EAD’s programs on biodiversity, energy conservation and water under Blue Carbon, a program that seeks to protect natural resources amid global economic development.
EAD, through the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative, is encouraging the gathering of environmental and social data and the use of these as key inputs in sustainable development.
Having solar, wind and other renewable energy projects, the Philippines could also be an investment target for Masdar, a subsidiary of the state-owned Mubadala Development Co. Masdar managing director and CEO Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber said in an interview that the firm was interested in Philippine projects “provided that the regulatory environment gives us room to work and make some profit.”
Al Jaber said the UAE was keen on growing the non-oil component of its economy.
Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said more than 900 million people suffered chronic hunger during the food crisis of 2010, highlighting the need for security of food and water supplies.
He said humanitarian and economic issues were not far removed from that of counter-terrorism, citing the UAE’s view that the violent ideologies feeding terrorism around the world are also in part based on an absence of hope and the exploitation of economic disadvantage in vulnerable communities. As such, he said, there must be a “holistic approach” to development.
Total trade between the Philippines and the UAE increased to $1.61 billion in 2010 from $1 billion in 2009.
The briefings were part of the UAE’s 40th National Day celebration. UAE’s National Media Council gathered 100 journalists from 43 countries to meet high-ranking officials and ministers.