Ignazio Cassis visits the Philippines: conclusion of a tour to position Switzerland in Asia

Press releases, 08.02.2024

Ignazio Cassis has concluded his journey to Asia with a visit to the Philippine capital Manila. Discussions focused mainly on economic and political cooperation and the geopolitical situation. The last official visit to the Philippines by a member of the Federal Council dates back to 2008.

On 8 February, following his visits to India, the Republic of Korea and China, Mr Cassis travelled to the Philippines. His visit underscored Switzerland's interests in intensifying cooperation with this South East Asian country. The Federal Council's South East Asia Strategy 2023–26 outlines Switzerland's intention to further strengthen and deepen its relations with the countries of the region. This will allow Switzerland to tap into South East Asia's dynamism and at the same time contribute to the handling of regional risks. The Philippines – in terms of population the second-largest country in South East Asia – plays a pivotal role in this effort.

Strong economic dynamism

Economic relations were a central theme in the discussions between Mr Cassis and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo. The free trade agreement between EFTA and the Philippines has been in force since 2018. The two foreign ministers agreed to work towards its implementation. "The Philippines is going through a remarkable process of modernisation and economic growth. It’s important to use the opportunities offered by these developments," said Cassis.

Peace promotion is another long-standing component of bilateral relations between Switzerland and the Philippines. From 2014 to 2021, Switzerland chaired the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which was established to implement the peace agreement in the semi-autonomous region of Bangsamoro on the island of Mindanao. Mr Cassis and Mr Manalo discussed possibilities for continuing Switzerland's contribution to peaceful development in the Philippines.

The talks also focused on the current global situation. The two foreign ministers expressed concern about the world's increasing geopolitical fragmentation. Mr Cassis briefed Mr Manalo on Switzerland's role in the UN Security Council and its efforts to host a high-level conference on peace in Ukraine. The growing tensions in the South China Sea, which directly affect the Philippines, were also discussed.

Long history of diplomatic relations

Switzerland and the Philippines look back on a long history of diplomatic relations. The Swiss consulate in Manila (today's Swiss embassy), which was opened in 1862, was the first Swiss representation in Asia. The last visit by a Swiss federal councillor to the Philippines was by then President of the Confederation Pascal Couchepin in 2008.

Some 4,200 Swiss citizens live in the Philippine archipelago – the second largest Swiss community in Asia.

Asia-Pacific: a fast-growing region with major geopolitical significance

Mr Cassis' tour of India, the Republic of Korea, China and the Philippines reflects the growing dynamism of the Asia–Pacific region and served to promote Switzerland's interests in this strategically important geopolitical part of the world. It was also an opportunity to gather the views of these four countries on the war in Ukraine and possible paths to peace. Given their political significance, their perspectives on this war are important to the organisation of a high-level conference in Switzerland on peace in Ukraine.

Further information:

South East Asia Strategy 2023-2026
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Philippines

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