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Phil-HK ties solid — Catalla, Cheung

21 June 2017

Consul General Bernardita Catalla and Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung offer a toast for closer ties between the Philippines and Hong Kong. 

By Vir B. Lumicao

The Philippines and Hong Kong reaffirmed their solid friendship at a reception held to commemorate the 119th year of Philippine Independence, and the 60th year of diplomatic relations between the two governments.

Consul General Bernardita Catalla and Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung renewed the vow of friendship at the reception held at the Conrad on June 8, hosted by the Philippine Consulate.

More than 200 guests including foreign diplomats, businessmen, Filipino professionals, and workers were invited to the gathering, which was highlighted by a toast between Catalla and Cheung.

“The friendship and partnership have never been more solid than in the last three years, and I am fortunate to be the steward during this auspicious period in Philippines-Hong Kong relations,” Congen Catalla said in her welcome speech at the reception.
The Conrad Hotel hall was full of invited guests. Photos by Frederick Suarez

But she said she was both happy and sad as this was the last National Day she was hosting. Catalla is due to take up the post as Philippine ambassador to Lebanon, three years after taking over as head of the consulate in Hong Kong.

Cheung, for his part, said he sees greater opportunity for both Hong Kong and the Philippines as China’s Belt and Road initiative gets under way.

He cited Hong Kong’s role, with its being the financial center of China, as a super connector to the Belt and Road strategy of the mainland. The territory has the resources and expertise to finance infrastructure projects in countries along the Belt and Road.

“In short, we have the capital account to help the Philippines’ infrastructure development to build a more connected future,” Cheung said.

Catalla expressed her gratitude to the Hong Kong government, especially to the police, for ensuring that the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte on his way to the Belt and Road forum in Beijing last month was secure, peaceful and comfortable.

She also thanked the Labour Department for protecting the rights of Filipino workers in the territory, citing such moves as the setting up of the joint Technical Working Group to discuss problems concerning the workers and the insertion of guidelines on window cleaning in the standard contract for domestic helpers.

Catalla said the closeness of the relations between her country and Hong Kong is shown by the special participation of the Philippines in a cultural presentation, “Celebrate Colours”, to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China this coming July 1.

For his part, Cheung, a former labour secretary, spoke about the “solid and healthy” trade relations between Hong Kong and the Philippines.

He said in 2016, the Philippines was Hong Kong’s 13th largest trade partner while Hong Kong was the Philippines’ fifth largest. “We were also the third largest import market and 10th largest source of imports of the Philippines,” he said.

Cheung noted the annual trade growth of 7.6% between Hong Kong and the Philippines between 2008 and 2016.

He also said that last year, $58.6 billion worth of trade between China and the Philippines was routed through Hong Kong, which showed that Hong Kong is the gateway for trade between the Philippines and the mainland.

He noted that between 2015 and 2016 Philippine GDP grew more than 6% a year and the IMF projected that growth to reach about 10% in the next two years on robust demand.

He said he believes there is still room for economic collaboration between the two sides because the Philippine population keeps getting younger, with over 60% of its 100 million people under 30 years old, which augurs well for consumption.

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