By Roy Mabasa
Economic relations between the Czech Republic and the Philippines may begin to flourish in the next three years following the successful conduct of the first Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting in Prague.
Czech Ambassador to Manila Jana Sediva said growth in economic activities is expected to continue in the succeeding years as an offshoot of the signing of two important documents – Economic Cooperation Agreement (ECA) and the Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) – two years ago.
In an exclusive interview with the Manila Bulletin on Wednesday, the Czech envoy said the current target of their mission is to focus on economic and defense cooperation, introduce the Philippines to their businessmen and vice versa, and to promote high-level visits on both sides.
“Our mission here is to introduce the Philippines to Czech businessmen and let them know that it’s actually a very friendly atmosphere (here). People are very professional they all speak English, culturally (it) is very similar to us, and of course, the religion since we are also Christians,” Sediva said.
Citing data from the Czech Statistical Office, Sediva noted an increase in the import activities between the two countries with the trade turnover reaching US$561.3 million in 2018.
On March 28 to 29, a delegation from the Philippines led by Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo met with their Czech counterparts led by Vladimir Bartl in Prague for the launching of the JEC.
Accompanied by 12 Filipino businessmen, Rodolfo and his delegation explored possible cooperation in at least five areas of interests, namely agriculture, health, beer, design and defense.
For his part, Czech Embassy First Secretary Benjamin Ziga who participated in the JEC meeting said they saw a big interest from the Filipino side on the potential cooperation and they want to make sure that it would be a “two-way street.”
“From the point of view of the embassy we will make sure that the contacts have been established and we will try to facilitate them here in the Philippines. We’ll make sure that if they need any support, we’ll give them all the support we can. That’s a big part of our agenda,” Ziga said.
Ambassador Sediva also said they have invited Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Air Force Day celebration sometime in September this year in the northeastern Czech city of Ostrava and witness the airshow that would showcase some of Czech Republic-manufactured aircraft and defense materiel.
In agriculture, Sediva said she likewise conveyed an invitation for Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to visit the Czech Republic and observe their dairy industry, an area where they have an advantage.
“We have so much to offer. We can bring dairies or we can teach your people how to produce it in a very professional and cheaper way,” the Czech ambassador said.