Denmark’s Constitutional Day celebrated in Manila

On 5 June 2018 Denmark’s celebration of its Constitutional Day in Manila began with the hanging of an enormous flag outside the atrium building of Enderun colleges. Guests were welcomed with generous servings of cheese canapes from Arla and Dansk hotdogs from Leo Sorensen. “It was truly a festive evening celebrated with friends, dignataries and heads of missions!” reported the Danish embassy.

In his speech Ambassador Jan Top Christensen began by welcoming all Friends of Denmark, Dignitaries, Heads of Missions – all as “VIPs to the Danish Embassy”, as the Danish flag, Dannebrog, was hanging outside from the roof of the building, Enderun College, McKinley West in Manila

“This flag is the symbol of the long history of the Danish nation. The Danish flag is the oldest national flag in the world. According to the legend, it fell down from heaven during a battle in 1219, in what is today Estonia,” reflected the Ambassador.

“Almost four years ago, we re-opened our embassy. Time has clearly shown that it was the right decision to return to the Philippines. Today, we are very busy helping Danish companies engaging with both the private and public sectors in the Philippines. We also issue more and more visas to Filipinos who would like to travel to Denmark. Many Filipinos working for Danish companies visit Denmark for shorter or longer stays to get acquainted with Denmark. We also see an increasing number of Filipinos visiting Denmark as tourists.

“Soon the Philippines will open an embassy in Copenhagen. Certainly, there are many signs of deepening and broadening relations between our two countries,” he continued.

Denmark’s Ambassador to the Philippines together with DFA Office of European Affairs Executive Director Elizabeth Te, Vice Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Cambodian Ambassador Tuot Panha

The Danish Ambassador then elaborated on two recent important delegations from Denmark visiting the Philippines. First out had been Denmark’s Foreign Policy Committee.

“The committee got a more nuanced picture on a number of complicated issues, including the potential for conflict in the South China Sea, if the law of the seas is not respected by all. The much talked about campaign against illegal drugs was analysed form many angles. They also learned about the progress in the peace processes regarding both Communists and the Muslims. Indeed, President Duterte has invested a lot of political capital in these processes. It would be great for people and the economic development in the conflict-ridden regions, if peace can soon replace conflict. A golden opportunity is now with the Congress to settle with a sustainable solution for western Mindanao. The saying goes: no development without security, and no security without development. The Muslims deserve autonomy to develop their cultural identity.”

More recently Denmark’s Minister for Business Affairs had headed an important business delegation. “Many fruitful contacts were made with local partners,” the ambassador summarized that visit who then also visited Denmark, promoting the Philippines as ‘The Bright Shining Star of Asia’ because of the country’s sustained high economic growth.

“The Philippines continues to attract attention from Danish companies. They are certainly interested in doing business in the Philippines. Rich potential for much more economic engagement between the two countries exists. From 2013 to 2017, the Danish export of goods to the Philippines rose 82 percent. With the preferential trade status, the so-called GSP+, granted from the EU, the Philippine manufacturers have a preferential opportunity to sell more products tariff-free to the European market, including to Denmark. In 2017, more than 25 per cent of Philippine goods went to the EU market. European companies are playing an important role in the Philippine economy. With the recent Ease of Doing Business Act, the Philippine market will become even more interesting for foreign companies.”

The ambassador also reminded all Friends of Denmark that the Constitutional Day is a celebration of Denmark’s first democratic Constitution.

“It was signed 169 years ago, in 1849. Modern democracy means adhering to universally accepted principles such as good governance, rule of law, transparency, due process of law, freedom of expression, full respect for human rights, and gender equality. Rule of law protects the weak citizen at the national level, and protects the weak state at the international level. – Denmark appears again and again at the top of the list in international comparisons. We are the least corrupt country. We are one of the best countries when it comes to ease of doing business. Denmark is also rated as the country with the best balance between work and family life.”

He also highlighted that both Denmark and the Philippines are seeking membership of the Human Rights Council in Geneva for the years 2019-2021. “Denmark stands ready to cooperate with the Philippines in the Council on strengthening these important dimensions.”

Jan Top Christensen also highlighted a number of actions taken by the Duterte government viewed favourably by Denmark. Among these are executive orders on freedom of information as well as reproductive health, on which the ambassador commented: “Transparency is key for fighting corruption. I understand that the Congress is seriously working on putting this initiative into law. It is, indeed, very much needed to fight the still too high level of corruption. Less corruption will lead to more foreign investment and more jobs for Filipinos. More jobs lead to less poverty.”

“Modern, un-biased, evidence-based information is very much needed to help the young generation. The Philippines has one of the highest rates of teen-age pregnancy. Too many young girls end up in a hopeless situation and get caught in the vicious circle of poverty,” he also said.

“The Government has also set as an ambitious target to substantially decrease poverty. People living in poverty don’t have the strength to actively be part of a vibrant democracy. All persons should have access to health and educational services irrespective of income. Poverty is unethical, poverty kills, and poverty prevents unfolding human resources. The Government’s initiative to make state universities tuition free is another progressive reform.”

Implementation of the Government’s huge infrastructure program, “Build, Build, Build”, will help getting rid of many bottle-necks for economic development and then open up for creating more jobs. Danish companies are already involved in interesting infrastructure projects.”

“The Danish Embassy is engaging with the Philippines at all levels. Denmark is through financial contribution to UN-agencies and the EU assisting in many areas. And Danish NGOSs are engaging with civil society in the Philippines within a number of sectors, fighting use of torture, climate change, modernizing the labour market, encouraging investigative and professional journalism, and improving fishing methods.”

(In addition to embassy reporting the above are extracts from the speech.)

Source: Embassy of Denmark in the Philippines

About Joakim Persson

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