MANILA (UPDATE) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. welcomed Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Fiala in Malacañang on Monday, a day after the European leader landed in Manila for a 3-day official visit.
Fiala was greeted with a gun salute upon his arrival in the Malacañang’s Kalayaan Grounds, before he proceeded with the signing of the Palace’s guesbook, a tradition among visiting heads of state and other high-ranking guests.
“I’m very pleased to be the first head of government from Europe who is visiting the Philippines since your election,” Fiala told Marcos Jr. during their joint press statement in Malacañang.
“Our countries are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations but our connection is much longer. Jose Rizal and Czech Professor Ferdinand Blumentritt, they’re friends long before that,” he said.
“Our soldiers also defended Manila side-by-side during the Second World War, and I’m proud that the Czech people have the Philippines win their freedom,” he added.
The Philippines is the first stop of Fiala’s 10-day tour in Asia, where he will visit 6 countries to strengthen Czech Republic’s trade ties in the region.
“It shows that your country and your region are very important for the Czech Republic,” the European leader said.
In an earlier tweet, the European leader said that “the goal of the trip… is to improve and develop relations with countries in this region and support Czech companies in local markets,” Fiala said in an earlier tweet.
“The Philippines is a fast-growing economy and I am glad that Czech companies are and will be operating here in many areas, for example defense, aviation or transport,” he said, noting that business relations between Manila and Prague dates back to the 1930s.
Marcos Jr. described their meeting as an “important milestone in the 50 years of diplomatic ties between the Czech Republic and the Philippines.”
“We both emphasize our country shared commitment to democracy, to human rights, and the rule of law,” Marcos Jr. said.
“I look forward to the continued strengthening of the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and the Czech Republic in the years to come,” he said.
Marcos Jr. said he and Fiala “had a very interesting exchange of views regarding regional and international issues, including the West Philippine Sea and cross-strait relations, and the war in Ukraine, amongst others.”
“The Philippines are a close partner of the EU and the Czech Republic,” Fiala said ASEAN and the EU are natural allies,” Fiala said.
“I am glad that we are working together and our cooperation is stronger than ever,” he added.
In 2017, the two countries signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement and established the Joint Defense Committee as Manila sought to diversify its defense partnerships, while Prague pushed to distribute its export products to fresh markets.
In 2019, Manila and Prague’s Joint Defense Committee met for the first time to discuss possible collaboration on joint projects.
Last year, Marcos Jr. and Fiala met on the sidelines of the commemorative summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) in Brussels.
After that meeting, Marcos Jr. said that he was hoping to have a “transfer of technology in the defense sector” between Manila and Prague.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said that back in Brussels, Marcos Jr. and Fiala’s discussion centered on “the security sector in the context of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) modernization program.”
“Philippines’ relations with European states — including the Czech Republic — are energized by mutual interests in upholding democracy and freedom, rule of law, peace and stability, and human rights,” the DFA said in a statement.
Czech Republic is the Philippines’ 8th largest trading partner among European Union member countries, with bilateral trade amounting to $450 million in 2019, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Philippine imports to the Czech Republic is pegged at $340.44 million, while imports from the European nation is at $114.31 million, data showed.
Czech Republic is known for manufacturing equipment and vehicles such as aircraft, cargo vessels, yachts, as well as various power facilities around the world.
In 2018 alone, the European country exported $117.70-billion worth of machinery and transportation vehicles to different countries, according to data from Czech Republic’s Embassy in Manila.
“We talked about areas where our countries should cooperate more,” Fiala said.
“We hope that our visit will be a new start for successful cooperation between our companies,” he added.
Prague is also confident that it can “offer lower prices combined with new products and consulting in the energy sector,” a trade brochure from the Embassy read.
Fiala is expected to depart Manila on April 18, and will proceed to Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
The Czech Prime Minister will also visit Singapore, Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan later this month.