By SAMMY JULIAN
Manila News Bureau Chief
MANILA — The European Union has more than doubled its development cooperation funding for the Philippines for the next cycle 2014–2020.
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso announced this during his meeting with visiting President Benigno Aquino III at the Commission Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, according to Malacañang.
Barroso informed Aquino that EU has earmarked €325 million (roughly P18.6 billion) for this period, the focus of which would be strengthening the country’s rule of law through legal and judicial reform and the pursuit of inclusive growth through access to sustainable energy development and job creation in Mindanao.
The Philippines and the EU are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of their bilateral relations this year.
During the meeting, the two leaders discussed a number of regional and global issues that are crucial to both countries’ interests.
These include the Philippines’ compliance with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Convention; efforts to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing; and the Philippine application to EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) + Scheme.
Likewise, Aquino and Barroso encouraged enhanced cooperation, particularly in the many areas covered by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed by the Philippines and EU in Phnom Penh in 2012.
Aquino sought in particular EU’s continued support for a rule-based and peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea and the expeditious conclusion of a legally binding Code of Conduct.
After meeting with Barroso, Aquino had an audience with His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium at the Royal Palace in Brussels. He thanked Belgium, through the King, for its assistance in the aftermath of super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) that destroyed many areas in Visayas in November last year.
Aquino also noted the Philippines’ historical relations with Belgium as he informed King Philippe that the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, published one of his two great novels in Ghent.
He also invited the King to once again visit the Philippines. King Philippe led an economic mission to the Philippines in his capacity as Crown Prince in 1996.
Also, he invited Princess Astrid, as His Majesty’s representative to the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency, to head an economic mission to the Philippines next year.
Aquino also met with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, keynoted the PPP Infrastructure Conference organized by the Department of Trade and Industry, and held business meetings with chief executive officers of Shell, HSBC and Asia House, all in the United Kingdom.
The President’s first day in Brussels ended with a meeting with more than 700 Filipinos living and working in Belgium and Luxembourg at the Cathedral of St. Michel and St. Gudule.
His engagements on his second day in Brussels were capped by a policy speech at the Val Duchesse Castle on the theme, “Philippine relations with the EU: Shared Values and Prospects for Cooperation,” in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-EU bilateral relations./PN