06 October 2007 (The Inquirer) – It’s not so much and archaeological story as it is a political one. The Philippine president attempts to revive ancient “ties” with India by citing Indian cultural influence by way of Srivijaya and Majapahit. I find it quite funny that the basis for reviving ties is not so much because of any historic ties with India per se (whatever “India” was in the past), but by the fact that Indian “culture” was transmitted to the Philippines. Which doesn’t really say anything, does it?
Arroyo cites ancient Philippines-India ties
By Michael Lim Ubac
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday sought to revive the Philippinesâ€™ ancient ties with India even as she called on the two countriesâ€™ leaders to â€œmove the integration of our economies forward.â€
The President was accorded full military honors when she arrived here on the second day of a three-day state visit aimed at strengthening bilateral relations.
Indian President Pratibha Patil, Indiaâ€™s first woman chief of state, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were on hand to receive Ms Arroyo in elaborate ceremonies at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Sanskrit for presidential palace), a magnificent colonial structure with massive columns, verandas and balconies incorporating traditional Indian motifs.
Ms Arroyoâ€™s visit here is the second in 10 years by a Philippine president. President Fidel Ramos visited India in 1997.
â€œIndia has played a very important influence on the culture of the Philippines way back before the Spanish colonized us, and we want to revive our cultural ties,â€ Ms Arroyo said in brief remarks to reporters following her arrival.
Indian cultural influence reached the Philippines indirectly via two great Indo-Malayan empires which traded with the Philippines. The Sriwijaya Empire (7th to 13th centuries) based in Palembang, Sumatra, was a mix of Buddhism and Hinduism. The Majapahit Empire (1293 to 1527) was Hindu, and centered in Java in what is now Indonesia. Indian hegemony over Southeast Asia ended with the decline of the Majapahit in the 14th century and the rise of Islam.
Scholars believe that Indian cultural influence on Filipino culture has been underestimated. It extended through the indigenous religions, epic folk literature, myths, social customs, arts, crafts, traditional dress and Sanskrit roots of pre-Hispanic script and numerous contemporary words.
The President said that India was the fourth largest economy in the world (in terms of purchasing power parity), â€œand with that comes great responsibilities of India to her neighbors in the economic, political and security fields.â€
â€œAnd as one of the neighbors of India in the East Asian region, we are happy to be here to move the integration of our economies forward,â€ she said.
In a measure using purchasing power parity (PPP) calculations, India has the worldâ€™s fourth largest gross domestic product at $4.156 trillion. PPP takes into account the relative cost of living and the inflation rates of countries, rather than using just the exchange rates, which may distort real differences in income.
India has a population of 1.1 billion, second only to Chinaâ€™s 1.3 billion people.
After the ceremonies at the presidential palace, the President went to lay a wreath at the tomb of Mahatma Gandhi, Indiaâ€™s great nationalist leader.
She returned to the Oberoi Hotel to receive a succession of Indian leaders and businessmen before addressing the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Associated Chamber of Commerce of India.
Trade ties lopsided
Saying trade relations between the two countries were â€œlopsidedâ€ in favor of India, Ms Arroyo invited the Indian business groups to invest in the Philippines in the areas of information technology, business outsourcing, mining, filmmaking, tourism, biofuels, asset privatization and consumer products.
Philippine exports to India, led by electronics, registered at $119.5 million in 2006, while imports of Indian goods such as meat, wheat and iron finished products amounted to $400.9 million.
9 accords signed
Ms Arroyo announced the signing of nine bilateral agreements with India:
â€¢ Framework of Philippines-India Bilateral Relations
â€¢ Agreement to Establish the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation
â€¢ $50-million credit line from the Export and Import Bank of India
â€¢ Philippines-India Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism, to include exchange of military personnel and students and joint military exercises in non-combat activities
â€¢ Memorandum of Agreement in the Field of Health and Medicine
â€¢ Agreement between the government-owned Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) and Indian State Trading Corp. on the purchase of $35 million worth of quality but affordable medicines from India
â€œOur massive spending on health care includes importing pharmaceuticals from India as part of our program to cut in half the price of medicines commonly bought by the poor,â€ Ms Arroyo said.
â€¢ Memorandum of Agreement on Enhanced Cooperation in the Field of Renewable Energy
â€¢ Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation between the Foreign Service Institutes of the Philippines and India
â€¢ Memorandum of Agreement on the Waiver of Visa Requirements for Holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports.
President Arroyo also met with Indian opposition leader Lok Sabha, Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and Sonia Gandhi, chair of the Indian National Congress party.
In the evening, she Arroyo again met Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan before going on to a state banquet hosted by the Indian President.
To cap the day, Ms Arroyo met with the Filipino community here at the Oberoi Hotel. This Saturday she goes to Agra for a tour of the Taj Mahal, the magnificent white marble mausoleum which the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan built for his wife in the 17th century.
President Arroyo arrived in India on Thursday straight from a two-day visit to China. Her visit to the Indian capital was preceded by a visit to Mumbai, Indiaâ€™s industrial center. She leaves for home later today.
At her meeting with the Confederation of Indian Industries in Mumbai, the President invited Indian pharmaceutical companies to make the Philippines their main base of operations in Southeast Asia.
She also invited Indiaâ€™s hotel and resort owners to invest in the Philippines to promote tourism, particularly in the central Philippines tourism corridor and touted the countryâ€™s pristine waters and white sand beaches.
She also invited Indian businessmen to participate in the governmentâ€™s asset privatization program and invest in government-owned or -controlled corporations.
Call center in Camarines Sur
Sutherland Global Services of India has announced its plan to expand its call center operations in the Philippines.
Sutherland president K.S. Kumar, who called on the President in Mumbai, said Sutherland would set up a new call center in Camarines Sur province, southeast of Manila, in the next 45 days, which he said was expected to create 500 jobs.
He said that within the next three months, they will be establishing a 100-seat call center in Davao, and add another 500 seats to their existing 2,000-man operation in Clark.
Kumar said Sutherland Global Services was among the first locators in the new IT Park in the northern province of Tarlac, with its 100-seat call center expected to be online by January 2008.
The company is finalizing the evaluation of a proposed 200-employee call center operation in Iloilo and the planned training facilities in seven provinces to accommodate 500 graduates every month.
WNS Global Services also presented to the President its plan for a call center project in the Philippines that was registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority last Sept. 26.