President Duterte met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a bilateral meeting ahead of the two-day ASEAN Commemorative Summit in India on Wednesday. Prime Minister Modi was hosting ten leaders of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to commemorate 25 years since its formation, as well to have them as chief guests in India’s 69th Republic Day Celebrations.
India and Philippines signed four agreements on the sidelines of the summit post the bilateral meeting, where the President expressed his desire to have very good relations with India. The countries agreed to work together on defense cooperation and logistics, and strengthening socio-economic ties especially in the sectors of agriculture, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that Indian companies have been meeting officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the sidelines of ASEAN summit to discuss investment plans. In a press conference, he highlighted that Philippines has drawn $1.25 billion worth of investment pledges from Indian firms, that are expected to create thousands of jobs. The bulk of investment has been pledged by Adani Green Energy Ltd, which is planning to expand operations in the Philippines, particularly focussing on solar and wind-power based power generation and component manufacturing.
Investment pledges have also been obtained from Indian companies working in information technology, business processing management, software development, tourism and wellness, and pharmaceuticals. Apart from Adani Green Energy Ltd, other companies that have expressed interest to invest in the Philippines include Interglobe Air Transport, Interglobe Technologies, KG Information Systems Private Ltd., Business Process Association of the Philippines, Davao and Hinduja Global Solutions and Narra Wellness Resorts Ltd. which plans to expand in Palawan.
For Philippines, on the business end, it means access to Indian capital and technical expertise, accelerating core infrastructure development, and strengthening bilateral ties. The President also asked for cooperation from India in the sourcing of cheap medicines to Filipinos. India is currently the biggest exporter of affordable medicines to the US and EU. The delegation invited pharmaceutical firms to set up production units in the Philippines for medicines that are to be consumed in the country, or for export purposes. This move is aimed at making healthcare more affordable and accessible in the island country. Meanwhile, technology forums of the two countries (National Association of Software and Services Companies of India and the IT and Business Processing Association of the Philippines) signed an agreement to promote cooperation inducing growth of the Sector in Philippines. Philippines potentially offers newer markets for Indian technology companies to grow their business and create jobs for the local population.
As part of its Act East Policy, it is possible that India’s commitment to ASEAN is to create a foundation against rival country China’s sweeping influence and territorial ambitions. Both India and Philippines have had territorial disputes with China; while India came to a standoff recently on Doklam, Philippines has pursued an arbitration case at the UN against China’s repeated encroachment in the South China Sea in the past. Both countries agreed to boost defense ties by getting public and private enterprises to participate in the patrolling of offshore vessels.