July 05, 2010
Philippines-Iran Foreign Relations
Filipino Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis voiced his government's support in June 2008 for Iran's right to use peaceful nuclear energy. The undersecretary said that given rising hydrocarbon prices, all countries should be able to access civilian nuclear energy. In April 2008, the Philippines’ foreign secretary, Alberto Romulo, said that his country supports Iran’s right to access peaceful nuclear technology under the safeguards of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Hydrocarbons remain the main avenue of economic interaction for Iran and the Philippines. In 2006, the Philippines purchased between 70,000 and 110,000 barrels of oil a day from Iran, making the country one of the Philippines’ most significant trade partners in the region. In 2008, Iran agreed to invest $125 million in the Philippines’ petrochemical market. According to Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Mirkalaie, an Iranian trade official, over the course of the nine months leading to February 2009, the value of non-oil exports from Iran to the Philippines stood at $83 million. According to a November 2009 statement by Iranian Ambassador to the Philippines Ali Mojtaba Rousbahani, claimed that bilateral trade for the year totaled $370 million with the potential for growth on both sides. The ambassador also urged expanded trade cooperation between the two countries.
The Philippine air board, in August 2008, approved an agreement that allows the country’s airports to operate as many as 16 flights to Iran per week. Although Philippines-Middle East air links remain weak, it is believed that as many as 1.5 million Filipino workers currently reside in the region.
In September 2009, the Filipino ambassador, Generoso Senga, met with the head of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines (ICCIM) to discuss the importance of tourism to both economies. The sides agreed that an increase in tourism will lead to cooperation in other sectors of society including the food, energy, and construction industries.
Iran and the Philippines have agreed to ensure better labor conditions for Filipino maritime workers. The sides penned a memorandum of agreement following a June 2010 meeting of the 2010 Diplomatic Conference of Parties to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping. According to the agreement, Iran will henceforth recognize Philippine maritime certificates of competencies. Then-Filipino Labor Secretary Marianito Roque expressed his “appreciation to the Iranian government for its willingness to enter into an agreement with the Philippines” and claimed that “the recognition is essential to the continued employment of Filipino seafarers in the international maritime industry.”
Iran and the Philippines have embassies in one another’s capitals, though the two do not shared extensive bilateral relations. In August 2003, Manila and Tehran held their first bilateral conference entitled Dialogue Among Civilizations.  In April 2008, the Filipino foreign minister called for the expansion of bilateral ties with Iran and claimed that the two countries have enjoyed good relations in the past, giving promise to a positive future relationship. During an April 2009 meeting with the Filipino ambassador to Iran, Generoso Senga, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki noted the positive nature of bilateral ties and expressed hope that relations, especially in the fields of energy, technology, science, and culture, would continue to expand. In the same April 2009 meeting, Mottaki blamed the reactions of “extra-regional powers” for expanding extremism in Asia.
In February 2010, the Emilio Aguinaldo College in Manila opened Iranian Cultural Week, which hosted a series of programs and exhibits on Iranian culture. The series was attended by Iran’s cultural ambassador and several Iranian cultural and political figures.
On June 28, 2010, Mottaki demanded that the Philippine government conduct “an effective investigation” into a bus crash that left several Iranian medical students dead. Ambassador Senaga responded to Mottaki’s concerns saying he has “been pursuing the incident.”