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Philippines and Spain are natural partners

MANILA, March 26 (PNA Features) -- Philippine-Spain partnership is natural, shaped by a historical serendipity of centuries ago that has pervaded the Filipino social fabric. Filipinos are proud of their Spanish heritage, which has become a tourism asset.

That is how the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) itself describes Philippine-Spain bilateral relations, in the limelight this week with the three-day visit here of Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratino who arrives on Tuesday afternoon.

He will immediately proceed to Malacanang to meet with Spanish-speaking President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Moratino will also ink at least three agreements covering Spanish language teaching, health and employment, with Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo.

The motherliness in Spain's treatment of its only former colony in the Far East, may be seen in its "consistently maintaining the Philippines in its priority list for development assistance," thus getting so-called non-reimbursable grant funds for cooperation activities.

In this case, the DFA says, Spain tweaks the trend in most European countries which focus assistance in the lowest income countries in Africa.

The Philippines' most well-known novels, the "Noli me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo," which portrays Philippine life in the days of the Spanish colonizers, were originally written in the Castillan language.

So was Dr. Jose Rizal's 14-stanza "Mi Ultimo Adios," which all Filipinos who went to college up to the mid-1960's would have memorized because it was the natural requisite -- all of 12 units -- of academic life then.

In most Philippine towns until then, Rizal Day on December 30 was highlighted with a contest in reciting Rizal's last farewell and lament before facing a firing squad, that began, thus:

"Adios Patria adorada/region del sol querida/Perla del mar de Oriente/nuestro perdido Eden.

That's how Filipinos first realized that our string of islands dotting the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea are truly the "Pearl of the Orient Seas"!

Alas, Spanish is no longer a mandatory foreign language toward a baccalaureate degree and competent Spanish-language teachers are a vanishing lot, though President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has mandated that Spanish once again become also a medium of instruction in schools.

But with Moratino's visit, the beginnings of that bilateral desire are shaped with the scheduled signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Spain's Escuela Diplomatica and the DFA's Foreign Service Institute for the teaching of Spanish to career diplomats.

A Memorandum of Agreement for a program known as "Four-mula One" with the Department of Health is also to be signed. An agreement to allow the employment of dependents of diplomatic and consular officials is also calendared.

On Wednesday, the offices of the newly-built "Escuela Taller," a vocational school in Intramuros, will also be inaugurated with Moratino attending, the DFA said.

According to the DFA, Spain's cooperation with the Philippines in the next three years aims mainly to contribute to the latter's targets for the Millennium Development Goals, while they also jibe with Spain's own priorities under its Master Plan and Manila's Medium-Term Development Plan up to 2010.

The Philippines' top imports from Spain range from brandy to sausage, electrical products, printed circuits and feed additives for a total USD118 million, while exports are coconut oil and frozen tuna for a total of USD143.38 million. The total trade for 2008 is USD281.71

While trade, investments and commerce are not so robust, people remain the leading public relations asset of the Philippines, according to statistics.

"Filipinos are very sought after, are well liked by their employer because of their dedication, honesty, industry and the good quality of their work." There are currently about 70,000 Filipinos in Spain who are holders of permanent resident cards or are Spanish citizens.

Filipinos could become Spanish citizens after they have established legal residence for at least two years.

Spain is praised for foreign workers -- friendly labor and social security laws.

Filipino workers in Spain enjoy an average of euros750 monthly, two mandatory bonuses equivalent to two months basic salary, plus a 14th month pay, among others.

Diplomatic relations were forged in 1947, reinforced through a comprehensive Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in June 2000.

"This Agreement," says the DFA, particularly provided renewed sense of Philippine-Spain relations in the new millennium, marked by developments in information and communications technology, increasing environmental and humanitarian concerns and the move towards globalization."

Since 2003, June 30 of each year is celebrated as Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day, "symbolizing the Filipino people's gratitude and appreciation for Spain's inestimable legacy of faith, culture and values to our nation, including the beginnings of the country's political solidarity as one people despite the geographic division and linguistic differences." Sen. Edgardo Angara authored Republic Act 9187 that defined this bilateral link. (PNA Feature)

By Gloria Jane Baylon

Category: Articles and News | Added by: janus (2009-05-25)
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