L - R: Israeli ambassador Effie Ben Matityau, PCCI vice chairman Donald Dee, PCCI director of agriculture Roberto Amores
Nothing is writ in stone yet. (An apt metaphor considering Israel's Old Testament heritage.)
In the course of two days spent networking, the best possible outcome is for Filipino agribusiness owners to sign deals with Israel's leading agritech companies.
Israeli ambassador Effie Ben Matityau revealed as much during the press conference for Israel-Philippines: Exploring Opportunities in Water and Agro Technology.
Despite missing the start of a B2B session at the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PPCI) head office at McKinley Hill, the ambassador rushed from Camp Aguinaldo—where the anniversary of the institution was being commemorated—and arrived right on time for an intimate press briefing.
Matityau and PCCI executives answered questions from a small group of journalists who attended.
In the course of the discussion, the ambassador mentioned Israeli know-how's value for Filipino farmers and enterprises. Investors too.
“They should look at it as a business with high economic returns,” Matityau said about the agricultural sector at large.
Joining the ambassador were PCCI's vice chairman Donald Dee and director of agriculture Roberto Amores.
It was Amores who emphasized the importance of new ideas to the agricultural sector in the Philippines. According to Amores, 40% of the country's GDP comes from agriculture, which employs 25 million workers.
Also present were the Israelis Doron Hemo from the Ministry of Economy and Gilad Peled of the Export & International Cooperation Institute.
Admittedly, trade between Israel and the Philippines is negligible.
“At the end of the day Israel is very far over there and the Philippines is very far over here,” is how the Israeli embassy's deputy chief of mission, Adam Levene, described bilateral ties.
The Philippines being an archipelago without large rivers and at risk from annual typhoons, Israel's reputation as a technology pioneer in water and “big farming” is an enticing prospect.
Especially when it comes to water. Companies like ARI Flow Control Accessories, Netafim, Ooval, and IDE Technologies specialize in processing water for irrigation. They are also seeking opportunities in Philippine farms.
Among them, Netafim is recognized as the pioneering firm behind the world famous 'drip' irrigation technique.
But, as the ambassador and the PCCI executives admitted, no deals were underway at the moment, only talks.
The same Israeli firms trying to land business in Manila would attempt the same in Cebu the following day as guests of the city's chamber of commerce.
How much trade this initiative could spark is uncertain. Contracts are not agreed on overnight.
“These things take time,” vice chairman Dee told the press.