14 June 2012, Einav Cultural Center, Tel Aviv - Ambassador Generoso D.G. Calonge hosted a reception in celebration of the 114th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence. Close to two hundred guests from the members of the diplomatic corps, government officials, business contacts, Philippine contingent to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights and the Filipino Community gathered together to witness the simple program for the evening.
The evening celebration was highlighted by the singing of the Philippine National Anthem "Lupang Hinirang," followed by the Israeli National Anthem "Hatikva" (Hope in English) and the toast remarks of the host and the guest of honor.
The Honorable Orit Noked, MK, currently serving as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, was the guest of honor of the National Day Reception. She was accompanied by Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Ruth Kahanoff of the Asia and Pacific Division, Director Chaim Choshen of the Southeast Asia Division and Director of Protocol Nitza Raz-Silbiger.
In his remarks, Ambassador Generoso D.G. Calonge welcomed the guests and expressed his appreciation, on behalf of the Philippine government, for sharing time with the Philippine Embassy in celebrating one of the most important occasions of the country.
Ambassador Calonge noted in his speech that this year's celebration also marked a significant milestone in the history of Philippines-Israel relations because the year 2012 is the golden anniversary of the opening of the Philippine Embassy in the State of Israel. He emphasized however that relations have been existing long before the opening of respective Embassies in each other's capital.
"Even before the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, we have had long standing relations with the Jewish community, dating back to the 16th century when Jews, fleeing from Spanish Inquisition, made their way across the Pacific Ocean on board galleons. Upon reaching the Philippines, they established a Jewish community that thrived and contributed to our nation-building efforts in the last few hundred years." the Ambassador said.
On the economic front, Ambassador Calonge informed the guests that Philippines-Israel trade has been on the upswing in the past few years. "There has been increased mutual interest in the areas of defense and security articles, processed food, marine products, electronics and organic products," the Ambassador pointed out.
He also mentioned that the Philippines remains a credible trade and investment partner of Israel in Asia. "It is one of the biggest consumer markets in the world and offers liberalized investments and incentives policies," the Ambassador added.
The Ambassador also took that opportunity to thank the Israeli government for the projects under the auspices of the Philippines-Israel Center for Agricultural Training (PICAT) which is now on the 6th year of implementation. PICAT has been a channel where Israel shares its expertise and technology in the field of agriculture.
He further mentioned another commendable project, i.e., Granot Agrostudies, a project under the Foreign Ministry's MASHAV program that brings in agricultural students from the Philippines to study and learn the best practices of Israel, a country which is known to have turned the curses of the desert into blessings.
Ambassador Calonge invited the guest to come and visit the Philippines. "There was also a significant increase in Israeli tourists visiting the Philippines in 2011. The archipelagic characteristic of our country brings you more than 7,000 places to visit, and for nature lovers and those seeking adventure, consider the Philippines as your new, unexplored frontier," the Ambassador said.
"More importantly," Ambassador Calonge added, "the Philippines greatly appreciates the kind gesture and trust that has been given to more than 30,000 Overseas Filipino Workers in Israel, as well as the Israeli government's active involvement in ensuring the protection of their rights and welfare in the host country."
MK Orit Noked opened her speech by congratulating the Philippines for this year's celebration of Philippine Independence. Israelis applauded the remarks of the Minister when she highlighted the Philippines' important role in the creation of the State of Israel more than 60 years ago when it voted in favor of the partition of Palestine. "Such gesture of the Philippines further cemented the strong and vibrant relations we have had in the past," Minister Noked said.
She also thanked the Philippines for welcoming Jewish refugees to the Philippines, President Quezon's donation of a parcel of land and the issuance of 10,000 visas which saved more than a thousand Jews fleeing the Holocaust during the Second World War.
Minister Noked confirmed that Philippines - Israel relations is growing over the years, especially in the field of agriculture through the PICAT and MASHAV programs currently being implemented.
The Minister also promoted the Philippines to be a tourism destination in the Asia Pacific region.