Cambodia, Philippines trade back on track, rises 28% in 2022

Cambodia’s trade with the Philippines is back on track after a brief setback in the aftermath of Covid-19 and rose nearly 28 percent last year, compared to the previous year, said the Philippines Ambassador to Cambodia, Maria Amelita C. Aquino, recently.

Speaking to Khmer Times on the sidelines of the reception organised by the embassy in Phnom Penh to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence, on Tuesday, the Ambassador was confident that the trade between the two countries would go further up post-Covid-19.

“Our bilateral trade was impressive before the pandemic and has gone up to $100 million. The Covid-19 was a big setback but the bilateral trade is slowly recovering now,” she said.

It may also be noted that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement entered into force in the Philippines on June 2, marking a new milestone for the world’s largest free trade pact being fully effective for all 15 member countries. The new development is expected to further boost trade in the region.

The Ambassador, meanwhile, recalled the meetings Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr, had with business leaders in Cambodia on the sidelines of the Asean Summit meetings last year in Phnom Penh, saying that he was impressed by the investment opportunities here.

President Marcos, Jr, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had also the opportunity to hold their first bilateral meeting during the summits. It was also during that time that the Philippines new Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Enrique A Manalo met with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Prak Sokhonn.

“We are now trying to push the private sector from the Philippines to engage more in Cambodia,” she said while striking a confident note that the exchanges of visits and continuing engagements between the private sectors of both countries would soon translate to more trade and partnerships.

The Philippine private sector is already active in Cambodia and has impressive records in areas such as pharmaceuticals and agro-products manufacturing. According to some estimates, there are 5,000 to 7,000 Filipinos living in Cambodia now.

Earlier, while giving her opening remarks at the event, the Ambassador said that in the last year, the Philippines fully reopened all major economic sectors, leading to sustained economic expansion, with a GDP growth of 7.6 percent in 2022 and 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2023, which exceeded analysts’ forecasts.

“Unemployment and underemployment rates eased compared to the previous year. Our economic officials see the better than expected first quarter performance of our economy as an indication of returning to our high growth trajectory despite the challenges and headwinds we faced,” she said.

While recalling the 65 years of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and the Philippines, the Ambassador noted that the ties are getting strengthened with both sides pursuing engagements through practical and strategic cooperation in various sectors, at the bilateral level as well as through regional/multilateral platforms.

The recently concluded 32nd Southeast Asian Games and the 12th ASEAN Para Games in Cambodia provided more opportunities for people-to-people contacts. “In the coming months, we look forward to more fruitful exchanges of visits and interactions between our officials, business sectors and our peoples,” she said.

The reception, graced by Prak Sokhonn, Cambodia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, was also attended by scores of members of the diplomatic fraternity in Phnom Penh.