MANILA – The International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) leadership here is hoping that the bilateral trade between the Philippines and Israel will not be severely interrupted by the crisis around Gaza, although a temporary slowdown in the exchange of goods is expected.
In an interview on Saturday, Jesus Varela, ICC Philippines director general, said the foundations of Manila-Tel Aviv trade have become strong over the years, and a number of Israeli companies have established their presence in the Philippines’ technology sector.
He explained that ICC Philippines is in touch with representatives of the Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, and there is reason to be bullish about the future of bilateral economic activity.
Israel’s economic and commercial mission to the Philippines estimated that bilateral trade in both goods and services was higher than USD534 million in 2022, which it called “a record high” in the two countries’ 65-year trade relations.
“We are hoping for a speedy resolution to this matter. Hopefully, the United Nations and influential countries can intercede so that this (war) will not spread to neighboring countries which might want to join the fight against Israel. If the crisis spreads, then we can expect more serious economic repercussions worldwide,” Varela said.
The business leader expressed concern about how a protracted Israel-Hamas conflict is likely to affect world crude prices.
“Oil prices in the international market immediately shot upwards when the fighting began last Saturday. Wars in that part of the world always make the oil markets jittery. Market jitters always lead to higher oil prices, something that we all don’t want,” he added.
Varela pointed out that Israeli investments already in the Philippines are here to stay, but a long war threatens to “create problems about our future.”
Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry said in a recent report that the export of goods from Israel to the Philippines in 2022 grew by 94 percent compared to the previous year, equivalent to USD340 million worth of goods.
The same report also stated that Israeli imports from the Philippines in 2022 grew by 39 percent compared to 2021, reaching USD193 million.
In its website, Paris-headquartered ICC said that it is the institutional representative of 45 million companies in over 170 countries, and its mission is making it easier for businesses to trade internationally.
The ICC has three main activities: rule setting, dispute resolution and policy advocacy.
Meanwhile, The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) expressed support for the Marcos administration’s whole-of-nation approach to ensure the safety of Filipino workers based in Israel.
TUCP vice president Luis Corral said there may be no need for an en masse evacuation of Filipinos, as those residing in northern Israel appear to be safe at the moment, far from the conflict area.
However, he appealed to concerned Philippine authorities to hurriedly solidify their contingency plans and set a clear timeline for putting such plans in place, in case an evacuation becomes necessary.
“There are about 30,000 OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) there and they know the safety protocols that they must observe. Most of them seem to be safe right now. Of course, we are concerned about those living near Gaza. We cannot take a wait-and-see attitude towards this,” Corral told the Philippine News Agency. (PNA)