Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. paid a visit last 29 October 2015 to Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Ignacio Ybanez Rubio. Accompanied by their respective delegations (which included, on the Philippine side, Philippine Ambassador to Spain Carlos C. Salinas, Minister and Consul General Emmanuel R. Fernandez, and Intramuros Administrator Marco Antonio Luisito V. Sardillo), the two exchanged views on the state of Philippine-Spanish bilateral relations, particularly in the area of tourism and cultural cooperation.
Secretary Jimenez began the discussions by pointing out that Philippine-Spanish relations are currently at their strongest point, an observation to which Secretary Ybanez expressed his full agreement. The latter assured Jimenez of Spain’s continued support for the Philippines, whatever the results of the forthcoming Spanish national elections will be.
The Spanish delegation also inquired on the Philippines’ position vis-à-vis the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Jimenez replied that there is a commitment on the part of the Philippines to join the TPP, and that steps are being undertaken towards that end.
Ybanez also congratulated the Philippines on the favorable ruling of the UNCLOS Tribunal regarding the matter of its jurisdiction to hear the Philippines’ case against China on the West Philippine Sea.
The Spanish side also reiterated Spain’s policy on the Philippines as its “priority partner in Southeast Asia” and expressed the hope that political consultations between the two countries would be faithfully held on a regular basis. The Spanish side lamented the fact that the political consultations that were supposed to be held this year had to be postponed on account of unavoidable circumstances on both sides. It then called for the holding of political consultations at the soonest possible time next year.
Jimenez, for his part, assured the Spanish side of the Philippines’ commitment to be the voice of Spain within the ASEAN. He shared his observation that Spain has “underutilized” its connections to ASEAN and to Asia in general, and that the Philippines is ready to help Spain in this regard. He also assured his counterpart that the Philippines will likewise continue to support Spain, whatever the results of next year’s national elections will be.
On cultural cooperation, the Spanish delegation laid down its proposal to jointly present (with Mexico and the Philippines) a demarche on the nomination of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade Route to the World Heritage list of UNESCO.
For his part, Jimenez expressed the Philippines’ continued interest in hosting the Madrid Fusion in Manila, noting how the anticipated participation of a Spanish chef has increased the number of those who have expressed their desire to be a part of the event.
From his visit to Ybanez, Secretary Jimenez (again accompanied by his delegation from Manila, as well as by Ambassador Salinas and Consul General Fernandez) proceed to the Madrid Headquarters of Instituto Cervantes (IC) in order to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between IC and the Intramuros Administration (IA) “to commence a working relationship, with the objectives of developing mutually beneficial projects that facilitate, among others, inclusive community development for Intramuros.” IC Director, Victor Garcia de la Concha, signed the MOU for the Spanish side. Among other things, the MOU states that IA will make available, for the use of IC, a space in a house along Real Street in Intramuros called “Casa Azul.” IC shall use the 231.78 square-metered space “exclusively for academic and cultural purposes” for an initial period of 10 years without the imposition, charging or collection of rental fees. The IC “will work closely with the institutions, as well as all government agencies wishing to organize cultural or academic events related to the Spanish language and Hispanic culture… IC shall (likewise) promote agreements for joint programming of cultural activities with IA.”
Among those present at the signing was Mr. Rafael Rodriguez Ponga, Secretary-General of Instituto Cervantes, whose academic work on Philippine history and culture, as well as whose humanitarian efforts on behalf of the Philippines, had earned him a Gawad Mabini (Kasugo) Award in 1995.