MANILA - Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo kicked off a two-day visit to the Philippines on Monday with a meeting with his Filipino counterpart Albert Del Rosario for bilateral talks enhancing ties between the two nations.
The officials discussed a range of issues, which included trade, investment and improving security ties between Spain and the Philippines, as well as rehabilitation assistance in the latter's typhoon-hit regions.
They later signed a new cooperation framework agreement which enhances bilateral partnership between Spain and the Philippines, focusing on government reform and disaster risk reduction.
Garcia-Margallo also told reporters, during a news conference in Manila, that part of the discussion addressed the issue of the South China Sea and he reiterated Spain's support for a peaceful resolution.
"On the issue of South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea, I'd like reiterate that we share the view of a peaceful and negotiated settlement, always mindful of international law. Let us be reminded that in that part of the sea over 40 percent of the world trade goes through it," Garcia-Margallo told reporters during a news conference in Manila.
Tensions have risen in the region over territorial claims by China over a group of islands in the South China Sea believed tobe rich in natural resources.
The Philippines, along with Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also lay claims to the sea.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said the Spanish government had been one of the major contributors of humanitarian assistance in the wake of typhoon Haiyan last year, which killed more than 6,000 people and displaced millions, and for the additional aid the country had given towards rehabilitation efforts.
"I wish to express our appreciation to the Spanish government for these, which put Spanish assistance in the humanitarian field and in the disaster risk reduction programs to about 41 million dollars. This is apart from the new package within the framework agreement of development cooperation between the Philippines and Spain for 2014 to 2017 which will consist of a minimum of 50 million euros, about 80 million dollars in grants and loans," Del Rosario said.
Garcia-Margallo is expected to visit the typhoon stricken Tacloban City on Tuesday (March 25) to inspect the ongoing rehabilitation projects in the region.
He will also inaugurate a Spanish-assisted humanitarian assistance emergency warehouse project and visit a Spanish language cultural school.
Bilateral trade with the Philippines was around 285 million USD, with total investment from Spain valued at 200,000 USD in 2013, according to a statement by the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department.
The Philippines was once a colony of Spain with a 300 year history dating back to the 16th Century.