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Hungary commits closer cooperation with Phl

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Hungary is prepared to take “necessary steps” toward stronger trade relations with the Philippines, an official from the Central European nation has assured. 

Katalin Bihari, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Foreign Affairs of Hungary, made the commitment during the Philippines – Hungary Business Networking Event on December 1. Over 80 participants representing 36 Hungarian and Philippine firms in the environmental, labor market, and information and communications technology industries attended the event. H.E. Ambassador Titanilla Tóth from the Embassy of Hungary in Manila also joined the proceedings to support the Hungarian delegation. 

Bihari described the gathering as a prime opportunity for Hungarian firms to increase their presence in the Philippines, build new partnerships, and diversify exports. The Deputy State Secretary also recognized the Philippines’ “prominent position” in Hungarian foreign economic policy, and emphasized the country’s standing as an “important trade partner to Hungary among the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries.” 

Top executive to fellow Hungarians: Do business in the Philippines 

Ambassador Tóth  affirmed Bihari’s statements, attesting to the Philippines’ favourable business environment. This was also echoed by a Hungarian business leader, Adrian Kiss, CEO of the Hungarian Water Technology Corporation who said “I would like to encourage all Hungarian companies to be brave, come [and] do business in the Philippines,”. 

Kiss extended the invitation after presenting some of HWTC’s completed collaborations with Philippine government agencies. Included in this showcase was a strategic cooperation with the Laguna Lake Development Authority, intended to support the rehabilitation of the lake basin. Kiss also highlighted a partnership with the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to develop water treatment technologies for use in natural disasters. 

The Hungarian executive thanked the Philippine government for holding regular meetings via the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation, which among other subjects, explores technologies in various sectors. 

The HWTC is a provider of water treatment technology, and has completed projects in 35 countries in the past 30 years. In the Southeast Asian region, HWTC counts the Philippines as among its top partners, Kiss shared in his message. 

Philippine advantages, opportunities spotlighted 

In his welcome address, Trade Undersecretary and Philippine Board of Investments Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo spotlighted the Philippines’ strong economic performance.  

He cited indicators such as the country’s improving export numbers, as well as the record-breaking foreign direct investments into the Philippines in 2021. The Undersecretary also reported on the Philippines’ game-changing economic reforms to ease investor entry, such as amendments to the Public Service Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Foreign Investments Act; as well as the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act. 

Rodolfo also presented an overview of trade and investment relations between Philippines and Hungary.  “Philippine exports to Hungary increased by 40.26%—from USD 110.06 million in 2020 to 154.37 million in 2021. We believe the new exports of machine parts and accessories, as well as the increase in outward shipment of products such as digital monolithic integrated circuits, contributed to this growth,” shared the Undersecretary.  

Philippine imports from Hungary expanded by 16.68%, a development attributed to the “sharp increase” of importation in parts of refrigerators and freezers, as well as in the inward shipment of materials for electronic machinery. 

The Undersecretary then underlined the Philippines’ efforts toward renewable energy development.  

Undersecretary Rodolfo cited the Department of Energy’s recent decision to allow 100% foreign ownership of renewable energy sources. In November, DOE Secretary Raphael Lotilla signed a circular amending the implementing rules and regulations of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, and allowing 100% foreign capital in renewable energy projects.  

Undersecretary Rodolfo also invited Hungarian to view the Philippines as a sustainable manufacturing hub. He underlined the wealth of green metals in the Philippines, such as nickel, copper, and cobalt which can be used for battery production. Recalling another key measure, the Undersecretary reported on the executive order cutting tariffs on imported electric vehicles. The executive order was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority, which is chaired by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. 

“The Philippine government is here to support and assist you in however way we can,” assured Undersecretary Rodolfo. 

Emerging trends in digitalization and innovation 

Amor Maclang, Convenor of Digital Pilipinas, laterdiscussed potential collaborations between the Philippines and Hungary in digitalization. 

She recognized Hungary’s highly digitalized state, commending the Hungarian central bank’s plan to launch a central bank digital currency. Listing viable markets for collaboration with the Philippines, Ms. Maclang cited Singapore, which she described as father of Fintech; Indonesia, the largest ASEAN economy; Israel, and Hungary. She later noted Undersecretary Rodolfo’s instructions to “turn PH into a hub for research and innovation, and not just as a market.”  

Maclang then presented Hungarian businesses which are close to soft-landing in the Philippines.  These firms are engaged in various activities, such as industrial drone development, smart city solutions, fintech, IT security services, software development and programming.  

Upon the formal program’s conclusion, Filipino and Hungarian companies were able to discuss opportunities in the agricultural, smart infrastructure, and technological services sectors. 

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