Regional alliances ‘natural responses’ to developments

TEHRAN, Aug. 19 (MNA) – Philippines’ ambassador to Tehran has sat in an interview to Mehr News International Service to address the most recent developments in Southeast Asia.

Mehr News International asked Eduardo Martin Menez about recent US-China relations over the latter’s ambitions in South China See, and possible implications for the whole arrangement of coalitions in the Southeast Asian region. In the interview, Payman Yazdani and Javad Heirannia participated.

Is there any relation between the approval of Japanese parliament and the US strategy of transferring pivot to Asia?

Well there is definitely a relation, but I do not know if there has been a conscious lobbying by any government to have this decision by Japan as part of the US refocusing to that region. It may be even the opposite because if the US is going to pay more attention to Asia, that would normally mean that even in terms of security issues the US umbrella would then cover the region in which case there would be no need for other countries to help, but it might also be that the US demanding that its allies be more actively engaged, because perhaps the US government do not want to spend too much on overseas engagements. And therefore its partners abroad should also contribute something to the security of that region which is not part of the US.

I think, according to realist theory of international relation, the US translates rise of Chinese economy into a military one as well. Would you agree?

Yes, it's interesting you mention the realist school of analysis in international relations. And indeed, from this perspective, it is usually a win-lose perspective and therefore if that is the lands through which you view the international relations, then, any self-respecting global power will view the rise of another regional actor with caution and may want to take steps to make sure that the other actor does not dominate and control the relations within that area. So using a realist perspective is a logical argument.

In the one hand, we witness escalation of tension between China and Japan, and sometimes between your country [Philippines] and Vietnam; on the other hand, some tensions between the US and China in the region; do you think all these tensions will aggravate the situation in the region in future?

We can only perhaps look back at history and hope that the lessons learned from history will be a way to future and the future relations within the region. I think not all countries would like to see an escalation of tensions to a level so as to lead to confrontations, and it is the responsibility of all countries involved to try and make sure that it does not reach that point where tensions escalate [to confrontation]. But just as in all negotiations of all international relations, it is not a monologue. It's not just one country saying this is what we want, this what we get; rather, it is a dialogue and in many instances, a community discussion on how to manage relations peacefully in a region; so I hope that it does not get to the point but again as I said it all depends on the options available for countries. Even with the benefits of the lessons of history, if a country continues to act beyond what is legally correct, and if a country continues to act without regard for the interests of other countries, then if all avenues are exhausted, then it may inevitably lead to confrontation. Unfortunately, even with the lessons of the history these things still happen in global community. We hope it doesn't happen and we believe that all the countries involved want to maintain stability of the region so that everyone benefits from economic prosperity that stability will provide.

So you believe that the economic interdependency in the region and between China and the US won’t let political tensions to harm the interests of the countries in the region?

I hope that everyone will realize that there is much more to gain if rules are adhered to and discussions are done through legal processes so that everyone’s questions are settled without any conflict.

مصاحبه با ادواردو مارتین آرمنیز سفیر فیلیپین در ایران

Considering the nuclear deal between major powers and Iran, on which section of Iran economy will Asia and Philippine focus?

Well, the Philippines and Iran have complementary needs and complementary strengths. Both countries are large consumer markets. Philippines has population of 100 million. Iran has a population of 80 million and both populations have a similar demographic profile and the majority of the population is below 30. Both populations have a growing middle class with good disposable income. Therefore, both Iran and Philippines are good markets for the products that each country produces. For example, the largest export of Philippines to Iran right now is our Philippine bananas and also I see many Philippine pineapples in Iran. And because the Philippines is a tropical country and Iran has all seasons the agricultural products that the Philippines has are something that the Iranian market can import without being rival to Iranian products. So if we can overcome the barriers of distance for agricultural products then it is a very big market. The Philippine expertise in call centers and business process outsourcing is something that can be shared with Iran and Iran’s industrial base, you produce your own automobiles and heavy equipment and industrial products. Philippines right now has a very high GDP growth rate ,over 6 percent and therefore our infrastructure is very active now and Iran provides raw materials in terms of decorative stone, cement and steel. Many of your productions for construction, expertise and engineers can be used in Philippines. However, Iran remains major source of oil and gas. The Philippines does not produce enough gas for its own consumption so we can resume trade in gas and oil after the sanctions are lifted. There is food, industry and people to people and again tourism.

Both Iran and Philippines have identified tourism as a major contributor to our economies and one of my objectives is to try to get more Iranian tourists to visit the Philippines. There have been many Iranian tourists to the other countries in the region but they do not know Philippines very much. I can assure you that my country has just the same things and maybe a different experience to offer to the Iranian tourists. And the same manners to the Filipinos, they travel around the world in great numbers. 10 percent of 100 million Filipinos (about 10 million) live and work around the world, in fact over 2 million Filipinos live and work in Persian Gulf countries and about 1 million in Europe. So the geographical location of Iran is also an opportunity for the Filipinos. There are almost 1 million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, 700 thousands in the UAE, more than 200 thousand in Qatar and 30 thousands in Oman. In Iran there are not so many long staying Filipinos, but over 55 thousand Filipinos visit Kish Island every year, so we constitute the largest foreign visitor to Kish Island. If the Iranian tourism agencies are able to attract over 2 million Filipinos living just around 2 hours far from Iran or even 55 thousand Filipinos visiting Kish Island to visit the mainland Iran, there will be a large market. There are also possibilities in investments in energy and construction in both countries; we recently had some Philippine companies come to Iran with an interest in investing in your binding by setting up mines, steel factories and container terminal; I am sure there are also Iranian companies which might be interested in investing in the Philippines. Because just as Iran is a gateway to central Asia and Europe, the Philippines is also a gateway to Asia. The Philippines was recently granted GSP+ privilege by the EU so the products in the Philippines has special access to the EU. So if an Iranian company wants to set up a factory in the Philippines, then the products produced in Philippines can be sold to Europe.

 

End of Part Two

News Code 109359

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