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In the pursuit of progress

As the Philippines celebrates its Independence Day and marks 50 years of bilateral relations with Singapore, Philippine ambassador to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap looks forward to greater cooperation and growth between both countries.

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Ambassador Yap is confident of the Philippines' economic progress and that it will contribute to increased business cooperation and strengthen bilateral relations between the Philippines and Singapore.

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The artwork of colourful Alkaff Bridge at Robertson Quay was painted by Philippine artist Pacita Abad.

THE Philippines and Singapore reaffirmed 50 years of bilateral relations at the Fourth Informal Consultations on the Philippines-Singapore Action Plan in December last year, and discussed bolstering cooperation in areas such as economic ties, tourism and information technology.

Earlier this year, the embassies of both countries also launched an official logo and tagline in January to mark this anniversary.

The logo, inspired by the mythological griffin, a half-eagle, half-lion, symbolises the Philippine Eagle, the country's national bird, while the lion represents the Merlion of Singapore.

The Philippines will be using "Perfect Harmony, Shared Goals" and #PHSG as its official tagline and hashtag while Singapore will be using "Soaring in Perfect Harmony" and #SGPH.

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Seeing all this through is His Excellency Joseph Del Mar Yap, ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Singapore, who was appointed to the role in January last year.

Prior to his appointment, he served as Special Envoy for Philippines president Rodrigo Roa Duterte from November 2016 to June 2017, when he supported the work of the previous ambassador. Before his foray into foreign affairs, he was a businessman in the private sector for more than 40 years. We speak to him about his plans and hopes for the year ahead.

Question: What do you hope to achieve during your time as ambassador here?

Answer: I hope to achieve what all ambassadors hope to achieve during their tenure, that is, to strengthen cooperation and goodwill, as well as maintain lasting ties between the governments and people of the Philippines and Singapore.

Another objective is to promote the Philippines as a destination for business, investment and tourism.

Question: The Philippines became an independent republic in 1898, celebrating its liberation from Spanish rule 121 years ago. What message do you have for Filipinos living in Singapore this Independence Day?

Answer: The celebration of Independence Day has traditionally been a time to honour the men and women who fought and sacrificed their lives for the freedom and liberty of our people and our country.

As the Philippines increasingly rises as an emerging economy, this Independence Day celebrates the progress, development and the better life that present-day Filipinos have brought to the country through their courage, devotion, and values. These times are significant for the Philippines and all overseas Filipinos around the world.

The Philippine economy has grown stronger and it will remain strong for a very long time ahead. Our nation is prospering more and more.

Question: The Philippines and Singapore formally established diplomatic relations in 1969. This year is the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between both countries. What are your thoughts about how the relationship has grown and your hopes for the future?

Answer: Our relations have progressed steadily due to the strength of our strong economic cooperation, as well as the friendship and trust between our peoples.

The 50 years of friendship and fruitful cooperation mark an important chapter in the history of relations. We also share many historical moments.

One of this is Alkaff Bridge at Robertson Quay which was painted by late Philippine artist Pacita Abad in 2004. The original colourful artwork of the bridge was restored thanks to joint funding from the Philippines and Singapore.

Diplomatic relations between our countries are strong and enduring, as our governments cooperate and support each other in areas of mutual interest.

We also cooperate in multilateral forums, including those organised by Asean, various United Nations organisations, as well as Apec.

Most recently, Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr met his Singaporean counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan to discuss the future of bilateral relations.

He also noted our people-to-people relations and called on Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and they discussed the possibility of strengthening cooperation in areas such as counterterrorism.

To celebrate our ties, both embassies will be organising a year-long schedule of commemorative activities. The most significant will be President Halimah Yacob's state visit to the Philippines this September.