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120TH ANNIVERSARY

The Philippines has a lot to celebrate today

On its 120th anniversary of independence, the country enjoys peace, strong economy and good bilateral ties.

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Above: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte with the other heads of state and heads of government of the Asean Member States at the 32nd Asean Summit in Singapore.

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Above: Joseph Del Mar Yap, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Republic of Singapore.

IT is celebration time in the Philippines today as it marks the 120th anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence by Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the Filipino revolutionary forces revolting against colonial rule.

It was on June 12, 1898, that the Philippines declared its independence from Spain. Since 1962, it has been the country's National Day.

In his National Day message, the Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap said: "On the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence, the Filipino people remember the brave and heroic men and women, who gave their lives to protect the freedom we now enjoy. The Filipino people shall not forget the hard battles fought by their forefathers and embody their ideals, in honour of their sacrifices.

"I would like to thank the government and people of Singapore for the continued relationship they extend to the Philippine government and to the Filipinos in Singapore."

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Contact and exchanges between the Philippines and Singapore preceded their establishment as sovereign states, as both were colonial trading centres (Manila under Spain and Singapore under Britain) that did business with each other.

History books tell us that throughout the 19th century, Spanish subjects of colonial Philippines transited through Singapore on their way to Europe and India. Jose Rizal, the Philippines' national hero, visited Singapore a number of times and recorded experiences in his diaries.

In recent years, the Philippines and Singapore share strong and growing bilateral relations in different fields. Importantly, the two countries will mark the 50th anniversary of their bilateral relations next year. They formally established full diplomatic relations on Aug 11, 1969.

According to the Embassy of the Philippines in Singapore, the country first established a legation in Singapore in 1952, located at Ardmore Park. It was elevated to the status of consulate in 1967, and was located at International Building on Orchard Road. The consulate was raised to full Embassy status in 1971, and was located at Thong Theck Building on Scotts Road.

The embassy moved to its current location at 20 Nassim Road in 1981.

The Philippines has 12 English national newspapers, seven national television stations, hundreds of cable TV stations, and 2,000 radio stations.

As those who have visited the country of over 7,000 islands and just over a 100 million people would know, Filipinos are fun-loving. There are fiestas celebrated almost every day and foreigners are always welcome to their homes.

The Philippines is the third-largest English-speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European and American influences.

The strong relations between the Philippines and Singapore was founded on friendship and cooperation, strengthened by economic and trade relations, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

The strength of the growing ties lies in the bilateral economic relations. According to the latest data from the Philippines government, the volume of trade between the Philippines and Singapore was US$ 6.6 billion last year.

Singapore is the Philippines' fifth-largest export market with shipments to the city-state valued at US$ 3.85 billion in 2017. Singapore is also its third-largest source of foreign direct investment at US$ 201.49 million in 2017. The investment went into areas like infrastructure, construction, public-private partnership, and tourism projects.

The two countries enjoy strong people-to-people contact with active tourism exchanges. In 2017, the Philippines received 168,640 tourist arrivals from Singapore, making the Republic the Philippines' seventh-largest country of origin for international visitors.

In 2017, the Philippines was among the top 15 countries for tourist arrivals in Singapore, with visitor arrivals from the Philippines increasing and reaching record levels. Tourism experts say the availability of budget airlines is driving the increasing volume of the Filipinos' travel to Singapore for holiday and shopping.

Singapore is the Philippines' largest trading partner among the Asean member states. As founding member states of Asean, they share common concerns and interests in regional security, strengthening and expanding the Asean Economic Community, and undertaking Asean social-cultural community programmes together.

The Philippines is also a founding member of important bodies such as United Nations, World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and East Asia Summit. The Asian Development Bank is based in its capital city of Manila.

The country is moving from an economy based on agriculture to one focusing more on services and manufacturing.

Also contributing to the Philippines-Singapore relations are the Filipinos in Singapore.

The Embassy of the Philippines in Singapore estimates there are as many as 180,000 Filipinos in Singapore, of whom about 60 per cent are professionals, managers, executives, technicians, and skilled and semi-skilled workers.

The Philippines economy gets a big boost from remittances from overseas Filipinos, which surpass foreign direct investment as a source of foreign currency. Overseas remittances contributed US$31.29 billion to the Philippine economy last year, according to data released by the country's central bank in February 2018.

The central bank data shows that cash remittances from overseas Filipino workers grew 4.3 per cent year on year, hitting US$28.1 billion in 2017.

The economy of the Philippines is the world's 34th largest by nominal gross domestic product, according to the 2017 estimates of the International Monetary Fund with GDP (nominal) of US$350 billion last year. It is the 13th-largest economy in Asia and is the third-largest economy in Asean after Indonesia and Thailand.