Philippines enhances economic ties through Expo 2020

04 April 2022
In conversation with Rosvi Gaetos, alternate commissioner-general for Philippines Expo 2020 Dubai

This article is a part of a series of roundup features from Expo 2020. Explore MEED's coverage of the expo here.

1. Has Expo 2020 lived up to your expectations?

Expo 2020 Dubai exceeded our expectations as a major catalyst that came at the right time during the most damaging global pandemic, operating safely and responsibly even amid rising Covid-19 cases across the UAE late last year. It offered the Philippines a safe platform to share with overseas Filipinos and visitors from around the world our history, culture and plans for a brighter future.

The event represented a golden opportunity for the Philippines to drum up interest about our country and the 700,000-strong Filipino expatriates in the UAE, and over a million more in the Middle East, at a time when the country was still struggling from the economic effects of Covid-19.

To help set the tone for economic recovery and create a positive environment for the Filipino business community, Expo 2020 has placed special emphasis on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which are key to the Philippines’ future growth and job creation.  

With Expo events and programming as all-encompassing and inclusive – from women and gender equality, to sustainable development goals (SDGs), and socially-relevant themes touching on a variety of subject matters – it inspired the Philippines to collaborate with the UAE and other countries on social and diplomatic initiatives.

2. Significant business partnerships and/or trade deals signed as a result of the event?

At a bilateral level, the Philippines and the UAE have concluded negotiations for the Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement (IPPA) and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa). 

On the sidelines of the Global Business Forum on ASEAN held on 8-9 December 2021, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed al-Zeyoudi, Minister of State Ahmed bin Ali al-Sayegh, and Minister of Philippine Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) and Philippines Expo 2020 Dubai commissioner-general Ramon Lopez discussed the finalisation of the IPPA, which is expected to open up more investment flows from the UAE.

February 2022: Representatives from the UAE and Philippines during the signing of a joint statement on the proposed Philippines-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa)


The ministers likewise explored the signing of the Cepa to build on the shared objectives of the Philippines and the UAE.  

Signing a joint statement during the Philippines National Day at Expo 2020 Dubai on 11 February 2022, both countries formally announced a strong intent to mutually pursue the Cepa, and a commitment towards the eventual signing of the IPPA.  

The IPPA is a modern, business-friendly, and comprehensive agreement covering the promotion, facilitation and protection of investments. The agreement provides for the establishment of a joint committee on investments, which will serve as a platform to closely coordinate and collaborate in implementing a focused investment promotion that creates a greater impact on the economies of the Philippines and the UAE.  

The MoU on Economic & Technical Cooperation will provide a solid foundation for the Cepa, along with the provisions of the IPPA.  

The Philippines at Expo 2020 Dubai presented ready, credible and vibrant investment opportunities in the country’s priority sectors: agribusiness/agriculture, energy efficiency technologies/renewable energy, IT-BPM/shared services, manufacturing, oil and gas, processed and specialty foods, tourism and hospitality, and real estate development.  

Philippines commissioner-general and trade minister Lopez met with major UAE investors in logistics and port operation, vaccine manufacturing, AI-enabled IT systems, cold storage panel systems, and halal certification and advisory services.

3. Impactful moment during these six months?

With the aforementioned agreements, investments opportunities will open up in the Philippines’ key sectors. 

Likewise, the Philippines country business briefing on 11 February 2022 advanced the country's attractive business and investment climate, such as the implementation of the Corporate Recovery & Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, the Public Service Act (PSA), as well as amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalisation Act (RTLA) and the Foreign Investment Act (FIA), which are expected to establish reforms and remove barriers to foreign entry.

February 2022: Cultural performers during the Philippines National Day Ceremony at the Al-Wasl Plaza at Expo 2020 Dubai


During the meeting, MoUs and letters of intent were signed with Middle East/UAE investors, in areas such as retail medical equipment, dairy production, theme park development and renewable energy projects.

The Philippines’ participation at Expo 2020 Dubai was also highlighted by the four-month-long Philippines Food Festival, held between December 2021-March 2022. Through a series of culinary events and activities in multiple hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the festival helped create familiarity with the modernised curation of Filipino food and gastronomic culture, and helped promote the country’s food industry—in tourism, ingredients, brands, cooking techniques—to the global market.

More from Expo 2020 Dubai:

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