Typhoon reconstruction, government spending and rising consumption will drive optimistic growth forecasts.  (Erik de Castro/Reuters)

BALER — The Philippines is no longer the “sick man of Asia” but a rising economic tiger, Spanish Charge d’Affaires Ignacio Perez Cambra said during the celebration of the 12th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day.

Cambra lauded the Aquino Administration for the country’s steady growth in the last few years.

“The future looks rosy and promising for the Philippines,” he said, adding that growth has been pouring to the countryside.

“Nobody should be surprised to see, in a few years’ time, flocks of tourists enjoying the beautiful landscape and the beach resorts here to the extent that someday, we might have trouble in booking rooms in Baler to celebrate the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day.”

The Spanish Government renewed its commitment with the Philippines for intensified bilateral trade relations.

“There has been a flow of high-level bilateral visits as we have not had for some years,” Cambra said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo visited Manila along with executives of big Spanish companies last March.

Margallo and Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan signed a $68-million partnership framework agreement on good governance and disaster risk reduction.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala recently visited Madrid for a number of business ventures.

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation had infused $334 million worth of projects to the Philippines since 2000, Cambra said.

The Spanish diplomat reported that the amount of exports and imports now exceeds $580 million.

Exports from Spain to the Philippines have grown at an average of 25 percent in the last four years.

“Our ties have become closer and stronger,” Cambra said at the town plaza where members of the diplomatic corps from Spain, Australia, Laos and Thailand attended the ceremony that coincided with the commemoration of the historic Siege of Baler.

“Few places in the Philippines can epitomize this friendship more than Baler, where Filipinos and Spaniards exchanged animosities in open war where the heroes of Baler (los ultimos de Filipinas) and the generous Filipino visitors closed a chapter of the book of our common history, to open the book of the Republic of the Philippines,” he added.

Also present during the event were former Sen. Edgardo Angara and his son, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Gov. Gerardo Noveras, Aurora Rep. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Baler Mayor Neliano Bihasa and representatives from the National Museum, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, as well as members of academe.

The elder Angara was the author of Republic Act 9187, the law that mandated the annual celebration of Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day.

Meanwhile, the memorabilia of some of the 33 Spanish soldiers, including Brig. Gen. Saturnino Martin Cerezo and Capt. Enrique de las Morenas who took part in the Siege of Baler in 1898, were put on display at the Baler Museum.

Tourism spurs growth

The Department of Tourism (DOT) pointed out how the beauty of Baler can help the country in pursuing inclusive growth through tourism.

“We see that the Philippines and Spain have come together again as partners in the road to the future. As you say in your country, amigos para syiempre (friends for life),” Jimenez said.

He said the DOT is determined to “help deepen the nation’s remembrance of Baler’s incredible journey and our support goes beyond the growing list of infrastructure projects to link Aurora with the rest of the country.”

He said the Aquino government is targeting 56 million domestic tourists in 2016, up from the 35 million target in 2012.

“We believe that tourism is the shortest path to inclusive growth,” Jimenez said.

He pointed out that tourism provides jobs, spurs business and connects industries.

(Manny Galvez)

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