Screengrab of Ambassador Shambhu S. Kumaran met Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III from Embassy of India Manila website
By Alithea De Jesus
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and India Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran met recently to explore ways of enhancing economic cooperation between their two countries, especially in the areas of “financial and digital technologies” and infrastructure development.
Both officials acknowledged the numerous mutually beneficial opportunities open to the Philippines and India as economic partners in the Indo-Pacific region, as both countries are poised to strongly bounce back in 2021 from the economic impact of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
During his virtual courtesy call on Secretary Dominguez, Ambassador Kumaran expressed India’s interest in strengthening its cooperation with the Philippines in the fields of banking and finance, particularly on expanding the use of fintech to help attain President Duterte’s goal of financial inclusion for all Filipinos.
In support of this goal, Ambassador Kumaran said India can lend its expertise to the Philippines in setting up its national broadband network as well as its national ID system.
Secretary Dominguez welcomed the Ambassador’s offer of assistance and invited Indian companies to participate in the upcoming rollout of a shared cyber-defense plan for Philippine state-run banks and their subsidiaries.
The Finance Secretary also expressed his appreciation for India’s interest in helping the government implement its digital transformation programs that aim to expand financial inclusion among Filipinos, upgrade the delivery of frontline government services and further curb official corruption.
During the virtual meeting, Ambassador Kumaran also said Indian companies are interested in taking part in the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program but are in need of more information on the various opportunities available to them under the President’s centerpiece infrastructure modernization plan.
To assist prospective investors on this concern, Secretary Dominguez and Ambassador Kumaran agreed to help organize a webinar or online workshop where the Philippines can showcase the various opportunities open to India’s companies on infrastructure development, as well as other possible areas of cooperation between Filipino and Indian firms.
The Finance Secretary mentioned during the meeting that an Indian company—GMR Infrastructure Limited—is already taking part in the “Build, Build, Build” program and has performed impressively in operating the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) and expanding the Clark International Airport (CIA).
The Philippines and India rekindled their bilateral ties with the official visits of President Duterte to India in 2017 and 2018, which were followed by a state visit of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to the Philippines in October 2019.
India and the Philippines celebrated last year their 70 years of diplomatic relations, which were established on November 16, 1949.