Israeli businessmen are looking at potential investment in the Philippines in the domains of agriculture, water, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, ICT, and government-to-government defense cooperation.
“This will be our main focus in the years to come,” said Nir Balzam, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Manila during the “Kamuning Pandesal” virtual forum.
These are the sectors, according to Balzam, where Israel has a strong capability. He claimed that Israel had created cutting-edge technologies in these fields that can be applied to the Philippine situation.
Aside from these sectors, Israel is working with the Philippines on defense cooperation.
In fact, he said, this is the first-ever for the Israeli embassy in Manila to have defense attaché post. The Israeli defense attaché in Manila is Raz Shabtay. A new Israeli Ambassador to Manila is also expected to arrive next month, September.
“There is collaboration on defense and we have our first-ever defense attaché, who is working closely with the Department of National Defense to understand the needs and technology,” he said.
On health, Balzam noted the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) had some discussions with an Israeli firm exploring opportunities in the area of vaccines.
PEZA Director General Charito ‘Ching’ Plaza also said they are courting pharmaceutical companies and defense industries of Israeli for collaboration in terms of vaccine manufacturing and establishment of defense economic zone.
“We have created different types of economic zones such as the Pharmaceutical Ecozone and the Defense Industrial Complex to make use of our idle lands and cater to your industries that will in turn boost socio-economic progress in the regions,” said Plaza.
To date, Plaza said there are seven Israeli enterprises registered under PEZA. These companies contribute P114.521 million in investments, employing 175 workers.
In addition, bilateral cultural exchanges are being pursued especially with the expected direct flights to Tel Aviv by PAL in October this year. This flight was supposed to start earlier this year but was postponed because of the reimposition of heightened travel restrictions following the surge in COVID cases.
There are 25,000 to 30,000 Israeli tourists a year to the Philippines.
Filipino tourists to Israel are mostly religious pilgrims. Balzam noted that the Philippines is just one of the few countries in Asia that Israel granted free-visa.