Terming the BrahMos cruise missiles inducted by the Philippines as a “game changer”, which provides credible capabilities, Philippines envoy Josel F. Ignacio said India was a major source for the modernisation of the Philippines armed forces which was under way. “There is a renaissance in the relationship between India and the Philippines and they are rediscovering each other,” Mr. Ignacio said on Monday. They were keen on concluding the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), under negotiation, he said.

“It [the deal] is a great milestone for both countries. BrahMos is a game changer for the Philippines in that it confers credible defence and deterrent capabilities. For India, the significance is it is the first overseas export of the BrahMos and it is an affirmation of India’s rising capabilities and of its own indigenous defence industry. In a way, it expands India’s footprint overseas,” Mr. Ignacio said, speaking at the Observer Research Foundation.

In January 2022, the Philippines concluded a $375 million deal with India for three batteries of shore-based anti-ship variant of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, becoming the first export customer for the joint venture missile between India and Russia. The first batch of missiles was delivered this April.

Defence is one the most visible areas seeing a renaissance and catching widespread interest on both sides, the envoy noted, giving an overview of the bilateral relationship. Elaborating, he said, the cooperation was underpinned by a MoU on defence cooperation signed in 2006 and this was reinforced in 2017 by a MoU between the defence ministries on defence industry and logistics cooperation.

New Dimension

“This opened a new dimension in the cooperation because this opened up equipment transfers and purchases that we are seeing now,” the envoy said. This MoU is further backed by an implementing arrangement concerning defence material and equipment that facilitates government-to-government procurement.

“The Philippines over the past few years has seen India as one of the major sources of modernisation of the armed forces,” Mr. Ignacio said. The Philippines armed forces are currently in phase-3, termed Horizin-3, modernisation and under this, he said, they were looking at ships, aircraft, radars and items that help boost their Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), defend entitlements and secure their Exclusive Economic Zone.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between the two countries and the two sides are working on some high-profile visits to mark the occasion.

To a question on the India-China stand-off in eastern Ladakh that has been going on for the last four years, Mr. Ignacio said they were closely following the developments there, the recent military-level talks to de-escalate for withdrawal from certain parts. “In the end, in any part of the world observing what happens provides valuable lessons... The ultimate goal for any country is to resolve any dispute in a peaceful way, in a way that is in accordance with the law,” the envoy said. Both countries were watching each other’s own difficulties in the territorial sphere to draw lessons from them. “This certainly forms part of our own exchange of views with the Indian government to try to learn lessons and see how we can all profit towards a common goal,” he added.

The envoy said that in 2023 bilateral trade crossed the $3bn mark for the first time while the balance of trade was in India’s favour. India was among the top 15 trade partners for the Philippines in fiscal 2023. In this regard, he said, through the PTA under negotiation they hope to raise the trade and bring balance and diversification. “We want the PTA with India, we have similar negotiations with Europe,” he noted.

(With Inputs From Agencies)