(File photo)

MANILA – The Philippine coconut fiber has a potential market in Switzerland, Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines Alain Gaschen said on Monday.

In a virtual meeting with reporters, Gaschen said Switzerland is looking at importing more products from the Philippines, particularly agricultural products.

“And one I have been following is the coco fiber,” he noted.

The Swiss envoy mentioned that the University of Applied Science in Bern has developed a kind of organic plywood made from coconut husks.

“[T]hey use them to develop a kind of plywood which is as good as any of the alternative for wood but with no chemicals, no glue, no chemicals. It’s purely organic,” said Gaschen.

Coconut is one of the Philippines’ top agricultural commodities.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the country’s area planted to coconut is around 26 percent of the agricultural land or around 3.6 million hectares hosting about 339 million coconut trees and 3.4 million coconut farmers. Sixty-eight provinces in the country are also coconut-growing areas.

“Now we are in the process to tap in the potential. We sense that there is potential both ways for more export from the Philippines towards Switzerland and we have a study ongoing,” the Swiss ambassador here said.

Among the products that Switzerland is looking into sourcing from the Philippine are textile, food and processed food, and other sustainable products like the coconut husks.

Gaschen added that Switzerland, as a leader of innovation, can cooperate more with the Philippines in the field of medical technology, agritech, and biotech, among others.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, Gaschen said the Swiss embassy is strengthening its partnership with the Department of Health.

He mentioned that a Swiss pharmaceutical company is also eyeing to invest in the Philippines in the near future.

On the other hand, the Swiss envoy urges Filipino enterprises to utilize the Philippines-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) free trade deal in exporting to Switzerland.

Gaschen said trade between Bern and Manila increased around 9 percent in 2019, a year after the Philippines-EFTA free trade agreement (FTA) took effect.

The FTA between the Philippines and EFTA was signed in Bern, Switzerland in 2016 and became effective in June 2018.

The agreement provides duty-free entry of local exports to EFTA countries, which include Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. (PNA)