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Congressman urges Philippines to help rebuild Ukraine

THE PHILIPPINES should be among the first countries to help rebuild Ukraine by sending Filipino engineers, construction workers, doctors, and teachers once its war with Russia comes to an end, a congressman said on Tuesday.

“Ukraine can be a strong ally of the Philippines when we show them the lengths our Filipino hospitality can reach,” Party-list Rep. Rodolfo M. Ordanes said in a statement.

When Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the Philippines last week, he told President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. of his intention to set up an embassy in Manila this year to boost bilateral relations.

Mr. Ordanes said this plan could be hastened “if some property owners will be kind enough to provide the office space, facilities, and residences for the future ambassador and embassy personnel” of Ukraine.

“The sooner the groundwork is laid, the quicker Filipinos can help Ukraine recover from the war,” he said about setting up Ukraine’s embassy and extending help to the war-torn nation. “The Philippines should be among the first Asian countries to go to Ukraine to help it rebuild when the war there is over.”

During his visit, Mr. Zelensky invited Mr. Marcos to attend the peace summit on June 15-16 in Switzerland. About 90 states are expected to attend the conference, Switzerland President Viola Amherd told reporters on Monday.

On Tuesday, the office of Mr. Marcos said the Philippines will be represented by Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.

The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) did not elaborate why Marcos will not be attending the event.

“This is a clear sign that Marcos Jr. is preoccupied with the peace at his home theater: the Indo-Pacific region,” said Joshua Bernard B. Espeña, vice president at International Development and Security Cooperation.

Manila sees the South China Sea as the “most important strategic priority” of its limited resources, he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“This doesn’t mean that Marcos doesn’t care about Ukraine; little resources mean focused priorities,” he said.  “With most important world leaders not attending, Manila can only do so much on the other side of the world.”

Earlier, Mr. Espeña told BusinessWorld that the two countries have been on the receiving end of growing authoritarian threats to the rules-based international order.

The Philippines faces an increasingly aggressive China in the South China Sea, while Ukraine is fighting Russia’s war machine. 

Mr. Marcos and his Ukrainian counterpart “understand the need to work together amidst the expansionist ambitions of powerful states,” Don McLain Gill, who teaches international relations at De La Salle University, said in a Facebook Messenger chat on Tuesday.

“The experience of Ukraine resonates well in the Philippines, as China continues to push itself deeper into the Philippines ‘ lawful exclusive economic zone at the expense of the interests of the Filipino people,” said Mr. Gill.

Mr. Zelensky was present at the Shangri-la security dialogue in Singapore, where Mr. Marcos called for respect for international law.

Singapore, Timor-Leste, and Thailand are also among Southeast Asian nations sending representatives to the peace summit, which will be held amid reports of a possible visit by Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Vietnam.

The Ukrainian leader has accused China of helping Russia sabotage the peace summit.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 in an escalation of their war that started in 2014, killing at least 10,582 civilians as of Feb. 22, 2024, based on a report from humanitarian group Oxfam.

The diplomatic relationship between the Philippines and Ukraine was established in 1992. In 2022, Ukraine was the Philippines’ 90th top trade partner with $15.41 million worth of imports and $1.49 million in Philippine exports. — Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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