Philippines, Israel eye direct flights, cooperation on agriculture, water sectors

2023 June 6

WELCOME TO PH. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. welcomes Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Monday (June 5, 2023). Cohen is the first Israeli foreign minister to visit the Philippines since 1967. 

MANILA – The Philippines and Israel are pushing for the direct flights between the two countries and elevating their partnership in agriculture and water sectors, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

The plan to enhance cooperation between Manila and Tel Aviv was discussed when President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. met with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Monday, Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Garafil said in a statement.

Cohen told Marcos that establishing direct flights between the Philippines and Israel would boost the two nations’ tourism and economic ties.

“There’s another thing that we, both of us, took for an action item. [It] is to have a direct flight… your external sea between Israel and the Philippines,” Cohen, as quoted by the PCO, said during the meeting, referring to his earlier meeting with Filipino officials.

“And I think that we agree that both ministries will work together to have the direct flight. And this is also to bring more business people to come to invest and reach the place between us. So this is also another important action item that we will do.”

The Philippine Airlines was supposed to launch its direct flights to Tel Aviv in 2022, but the plan has been stalled because of geopolitical concerns.

The Philippines has become one of the top tourist destinations for the Israelis in the last few years, Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss said in November 2022.

Cohen also told Marcos about Israel’s planned closer cooperation with the Philippines to ensure food security, suggesting that the two nations may open an agricultural hub.

“I think that we can work together on the segment of agriculture. I just let you know that our land, 60 percent of our land is desert. But although 60 percent of our land is desert, we were able to provide all our water needs,” Cohen said.

“And I think that we can work together and let’s say that less import, more export for the Philippines. And I think that we can work together,” he added.

Marcos said he was glad that Cohen raised Israel’s plan, as he expressed admiration for its advancement in agriculture.

He added that agricultural development is “very important” for the Philippines,

“Because when we look at the economy as hard to just test, we said how do we fix the economy. It always comes down to agriculture first, how to fix every policy, then everything else would be great. So that’s the position that we find ourselves in,” he said. “So, the offers that you make for assistance and partnership in those two areas are very, very welcome.”

Cohen said the Philippines and Israel can also collaborate on water management, noting Tel Aviv’s vast experience in this sector.

He said Israeli experts may visit the Philippines to provide advice, noting that Israel has been reusing a large portion of its water resources because of water scarcity and it can share its experience in water management with the Philippines.

Marcos said the Philippines is looking at Israel and Singapore for best practices that the country can imitate.

Bilateral trade between the Philippines and Israel is expected to hit USD1 billion by 2024 to be driven by investments in agriculture, water management and tourism, Yael Ravia-Zadok, head of the Economic Affairs Division at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on the sidelines of the Philippines-Israel economic briefing in Makati City on Monday. 

Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos (PNA)