MANILA, AUGUST 12, 2008 (MALACANANG) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and visiting Swiss Confederation President Pascal Couchepin agreed today to strengthen further bilateral cooperation on matters of mutual interest between the Philippines and Switzerland.

Specifically, they agreed to strengthen cooperation on Federalism and Multiculturalism between the Swiss Institute for Federalism and the Center for Local and Regional Governance of the University of the Philippines in a move to adopt the federal form of government in Mindanao aimed at finally achieving a long-lasting peace and economic development in the area.

The two heads of state expressed this commitment during their expanded bilateral talks held at the Ramos Conference Hall in Malacanang this morning.

The Swiss President is here for a two-day state visit aimed at strengthening further the 52-year old diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Switzerland.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the areas of mutual interest between the Philippines and Switzerland include maintaining the high level of exchange visits and continuing political consultations between the two countries started in 2000.

They also discussed the training of up to 50 young Filipino professionals and technicians in Switzerland annually under the Bilateral Agreement signed in 2003.

The two heads of state also took note of the activities of Swiss non-government organizations with their Filipino partners in the field of development cooperation supported by the Swiss Government annually with some P80 million funding.

The two Presidents also expressed satisfaction over the close and successful cooperation on the recovery of the late President Ferdinand Marcos’s assets from Switzerland to the Philippines following the final ruling by the Swiss Federal Court in 1998.

The President gave an update to the Swiss President on the status of the Law on the Compensation of Victims of Human Rights Violations during the two decades of the Marcos regime. The proposal is now on its final reading at the House of Representatives.

The Swiss President expressed the continuing support of his government to Philippine authorities in recovering Marcos assets in Switzerland.


Swiss President assures of continuing support for RP in recovering Marcos assets

Visiting Swiss Confederation President Pascal Couchepin assured today President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the “continuing support for Philippine authorities in recovering Marcos assets in Switzerland and in third countries.”

President Couchepin made the assurance during his one-on-one meeting with President Arroyo where they discussed bilateral issues and exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest, particularly developments the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Switzerland’s relations with the European Union.

In a joint statement issued by the two Presidents, they expressed satisfaction over the “past close and successful cooperation on the restitution of Marcos assets from Switzerland to the Philippines following the final ruling by the Swiss Federal Court in 1998.”

President Arroyo apprised President Couchepin on the status of the Law on the Compensation to Victims of Human Rights Violations during the Marcos regime which is now on its third and final reading in the House of Representatives.

President Arroyo assured the Swiss leader that her administration attaches great importance to the speedy passage of the proposed law to ensure that human rights victims are justly compensated.

On his part, President Couchepin conveyed the firm expectation of the Swiss Government that the Philippine Congress may soon enact the Human Rights Compensation Bill.

With regard to the two-way trade hovering around $300 million, with the trade balance clearly in favor of Switzerland, the two Presidents shared the opinion that the private sector could make much better use of existing opportunities.

President Couchepin commended the Government of President Arroyo for its decision to participate as Guest Country at MUBA 2009, the biggest Swiss consumer trade fair in Basel. The event offers the Philippines an excellent platform to promote the country as a prime tourist destination and to present the best of its products.

The two Presidents expressed satisfaction over the active contribution to the Philippine economy of the 60 Swiss companies operating in the Philippines which employ more than 10,000 people and whose investments amount to $2 billion.

President Couchepin praised the robust performance of the Philippine economy during the past years and expects therefore a number of Swiss companies to expand their business operations through additional investments.

The Swiss President expressed full support for the Philippine Government as host and Chair of the Second Global Forum on Migration and Development to be held in October 2008. The Swiss Government, having a keen interest in the Forum from its inception, is supporting the event through financing and expertise. Both Presidents agreed that emigration can be a win-win situation for the sending as well as the receiving countries, but that a diligent and responsible management of the process is required from both sides.

On the second day of his visit, President Couchepin will hold a Working Breakfast with the Chief Executive Officers of Swiss multinational companies, which will be hosted by Nestle Philippines, Inc.

Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque will participate in the meeting.

President Couchepin will also visit the Asian Development Bank (ADB) where he will be received by its president, Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda. Since joining the ADB in 1967, Switzerland’s contribution to the ADB’s funds has amounted to $500 million, including $50 million which the Swiss Government has just pledged as a contribution to the replenishment of the Asian Development Fund.

A visit to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, which has received funds from the Swiss Government since its inception, will conclude the two-day visit of President Couchepin, who will be received by Dr. Robert Zeigler, IRRI director.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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