MANILA – Singapore and the Philippines should continue to strengthen ties and do more together, especially in the face of uncertainties in the global economy, said President Halimah Yacob on Tuesday (Sept 10).

She highlighted three areas of cooperation – infrastructure development, human capital and innovation – in her opening speech at the 14th Philippines-Singapore Business Council meeting held at Shangri-la the Fort hotel in Manila.

“Singapore stands ready to share our developmental experiences and expertise in areas of interest to the Philippines. This could be done through a range of channels, including through cross-border partnerships among our enterprises,” said Madam Halimah.

She added that human capital is important, saying: “Our two countries can collaborate in developing talents with suitable skill sets to power a globalised digital economy. Business communities can play an important role by offering exchange training programmes and internships in both markets.”

Finally, she noted that innovation is the ultimate driver to long-term economic growth. The Philippines can be a test bed for Singapore ideas, while Singapore can serve as a base for Philippine start-ups to scale their operations and expand globally, she said.

“We should encourage more collaboration between entrepreneurs from our two countries and link up our innovation ecosystems… I also met several Singapore business representatives on Monday. I am happy to learn that our small and medium enterprises see opportunities in many sectors in the Philippines.”

She added: “We must dream big… why not Silicon Valley right here in the region?”

Madam Halimah is on her first state visit to the Philippines. She is there to commemorate the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between both countries.

The Philippines-Singapore Business Council was established in 1994 by then Philippine President Fidel Ramos and then Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

“Over the years, the (council) has contributed significantly to the development of Singapore-Philippines economic ties. In collaboration with other business chambers, enterprises and public agencies such as Enterprise Singapore, it has built extensive business linkages between our two countries,” Madam Halimah said.

She added that bilateral economic ties have grown from strength to strength over the years. Singapore was the Philippines’ largest trading partner last year among Asean member states and it was also the second-largest foreign investor in the Philippines last year.

Philippine companies that have an established presence in Singapore include fast-food chain Jollibee, which has six outlets in Singapore.

“With this solid foundation, let us continue to strengthen this meaningful partnership for the mutual benefit of our two peoples,” Madam Halimah said.

Later in the evening, Madam Halimah was hosted to a banquet by Davao mayor Sara Duterte.

She said: “There are strong synergies for economic cooperation and business partnerships in many industry sectors and geographical locations across the Philippines. Singapore looks forward to fostering closer city-to-city links with Davao City. Davao City, together with Manila and Cebu City, is part of the Asean Smart Cities Network which was launched in Singapore last year.”

This brings many opportunities for both countries to collaborate in areas like infrastructure development, as well as smart and sustainable urban solutions, she added.