Switzerland and the Philippines established diplomatic relations in 1957. The two countries have long-standing and good relations, which are characterised by robust political dialogue, a dynamic trade relationship and humanitarian aid missions during natural disasters.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Philippines
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and the Philippines have maintained diplomatic relations since 1957. The two countries have had regular political dialogue since 2001. The restitution of illicitly acquired assets – a process that has been concluded – and Switzerland's ongoing support for the Bangsamoro peace process are among the most important areas of cooperation.
In 2017, the two countries held a series of events to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations.
Relations between Switzerland and the Philippines have also been strengthened through their activities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Philippines assumed the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017 and Switzerland has been an ASEAN sectoral partner since July 2016. The Philippines is one of ASEAN's five founding states, having joined the organisation in 1967.
The Swiss Embassy in Manila is also responsible for Switzerland's relations with the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.
Economic and financial relations
Although trade relations remain relatively modest, the Philippines is an increasingly important trading partner for Switzerland in South East Asia. Switzerland primarily exports pharmaceuticals, machinery and watches to the Philippines, and imports precious stones, machines and agricultural products from it.
Some 50 Swiss companies provide almost 13,000 jobs in the Philippines.
The Philippines and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a member, signed a free trade agreement in April 2016.
A joint economic commission was established in June 2013 to strengthen economic exchanges between the two countries. The commission held its first meeting in July 2014 in Manila, and meets approximately every two years.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from the Philippines can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Since 2002, a trainee exchange agreement has enabled young people from the Philippines to spend a limited period of time in Switzerland to improve their professional and language skills.
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland supports a number of projects in the Philippines, in particular in relation to the Bangsamoro peace process, dealing with the past and transitional justice. It also facilitated the restitution of the Marcos assets to the Philippines.
Humanitarian Aid provides support with ad hoc deployments. In early December 2012, Typhoon Bopha claimed hundreds of lives and caused great devastation on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The SDC contributed 600,000 CHF to emergency relief efforts. When Tropical Storm Sendong destroyed much of the southern part of the country in 2011, the SDC dispatched six experts to the Philippines and contributed approximately CHF 300,000.
The Swiss embassy in Manila regularly organises cultural events in the Philippines. A series of events were organised in 2017 in both countries to mark the 60th anniversary of Swiss-Philippine relations.
Swiss nationals in the Philippines
In 2016, 3,623 Swiss citizens were living in the Philippines.
History of bilateral relations
From the middle of the 19th century, significant trade relations developed between Switzerland and the Philippines, which was then a Spanish colony. Switzerland's first consulate in Asia was opened in Manila in 1862 on the initiative of Peter Jenny, an entrepreneur from the canton of Glarus and a member of the National Council. In 1879, a number of Swiss insurance companies set up branches in the Philippines. In the years leading up to the Second World War, some 15 Swiss companies were active in the Philippines, mainly in international trade, the timber industry and plantations.
Switzerland officially recognised the Republic of the Philippines on 4 July 1946. Diplomatic relations were established in 1957.
After the fall of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, the Federal Council froze the assets held in Swiss banks by the Marcos family. The assets were returned to the Philippine authorities in 2004 upon the conclusion of the legal proceedings.