By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

OFFICIAL VISIT. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (right) and Prime Minister Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic walk around the Kalayaan Grounds of Malacañan Palace, Manila on April 17, 2023. The two leaders previously met in Brussels, Belgium in December 2022 on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – European Union Commemorative Summit, where they discussed cooperation in security, particularly the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (PNA photo by Alfred Frias)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is traveling to Germany and the Czech Republic next week to bolster labor and economic relations with the two European states.

He will hold a working trip to Germany from March 11 to 13 and embark on a state visit to the Czech Republic from March 14 to 15 upon the invitation of the leaders of the two countries.

On both trips, Marcos will meet with his counterparts and prominent German and Czech business firms interested in renewable energy, manufacturing, health care, and innovation, among others.

In Germany, Marcos will witness the signing of various deals, including a joint declaration of intent (JDI) on strengthening cooperation in the maritime sector.

The said JDI will facilitate maritime trade and the mobility of Philippine and Germans on commercial vessels.

Manila and Berlin will also formalize a cooperation program between the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Germany’s Federal Institute for Vocational and Training.

In the Czech Republic, the two governments will come out with a joint communique on the establishment of a labor consultations mechanism, which aims to enhance cooperation for the safe and orderly migration of Filipino workers and the protection of their rights and welfare.

In a Palace briefing on Friday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Maria Elena Algabre said that the Czech Republic had announced its interest in employing more Filipino workers.

By May 2024, Algabre said Prague will increase the yearly quota for Filipinos allowed to work in the country from 5,000 to 10,000.

At present, about 7,000 Filipinos are working in the Czech Republic in skilled and professional work.

The same also goes for Germany, which is keen to hire Filipinos in other professions other than health care.

Algabre believes this demand is driven mainly by the Filipino nationals’ good work ethics and skills.

“Whenever we talk, especially from our counterparts in Europe, they really appreciate the work ethic of our countrymen and their talent and skills. So they do get a premium in terms of recruitment and benefits,” she said.

Like-minded countries

Algabre underscored the importance of the two trips in advancing the country’s development agenda and improving ties with like-minded countries in the region.

“The president’s international engagements is of course in support of his development agenda– security, economic– and that will redound to the benefits of our countrymen,” she said.

“For Germany and the Czech Republic, the visit will focus in strengthening partnerships with like-minded countries in Europe, especially the promotion of a rules-based international order,” she added.

Algabre said the two European stops also stemmed from the fact that these countries share values for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

On top of economic and labor ties, Algabre said the Philippines would convey interest in expanding cooperation in other areas, including defense.

Marcos’ upcoming Europe visit comes following the productive Manila trips of Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Fiala and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

Joining his delegation are First Lady Marie Louise Araneta-Marcos, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, and his key Cabinet officials, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., Department of Migrant Workers officer in charge Undersecretary Hans Cacdac and Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil. (PNA)