Philippine diplomatic relations with Scandinavian countries go way back, some dating back to more than 60 years. Migration of Filipinos to said countries, however, could be traced around 40 years ago when during the late 1960s and early 70s, Filipinos who were mostly seafarers and medical professionals settled in some parts of Scandinavia. Today, over 25,000 Filipinos consider Norway, Denmark, and Iceland – the three Scandinavian countries which fall under the Embassy’s jurisdiction – their second home.
Norway, Denmark and Iceland have been steady partners of the Philippines in the areas of maritime, mining, renewable energy, fishing and medical services among others. Trade expansion and development cooperation are also areas which the Philippines and these Scandinavian countries are also currently placing much focus on and importance.
Iceland was the last country in Europe to be settled, by Vikings and Celts, in the 9th and 10th Century AD. The nation converted to Christianity in 1000 (the year in which Iceland-born Leif Eiriksson was the first European to set foot in the Americas). From the Middle Ages she was a Norwegian and later a Danish colony. She gained Home Rule in 1904 and then separate sovereign status under the Danish crown in 1918. During WW II, the country was benignly occupied, first by British and then by US forces. Iceland became an independent republic on 17 June 1944.
The country joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 and subsequently received an American air force base in 1951. In 1970, it was admitted to the European Free Trade Association. Iceland unilaterally extended its territorial fishing limits from 3 to 200 nautical miles in 1972, precipitating a dispute with the UK known as the “cod wars,” which ended in 1976 when the UK recognized the new limits. In 1980, the Icelanders elected a woman to the office of the presidency, the first elected female chief of state (i.e. president as distinct from the prime minister) in the world. After the recession of the early 1990s. Iceland’s economy rebounded. At the International Whaling Commission meeting in July 2001, Iceland refused to agree to the continuation of the moratorium on commercial whaling that had been in effect since 1986. In 2003, after a 14-year lull, the country began hunting whales for scientific research.
In October 2009, Iceland declared bankruptcy after its major banks collapsed causing the collapse of the entire economy. Iceland is still recovering from the effects of the global economic crisis.
History of Philippine-Iceland Diplomatic Relations
The Philippines established diplomatic relations with Iceland in 1999. Iceland was covered by the Philippine Embassy in London until jurisdiction was transferred to the Philippine Embassy in Oslo, which was opened in April 2007.
The Philippines and Iceland enjoy smooth and friendly relations. Iceland, with a population of 350,000, is a home to approximately 1,500 Filipinos.
The Filipinos in Iceland, who are mostly office and factory workers, are held in high esteem. In recent years, Filipino nurses have made their way into Iceland.
The Philippines has an Honorary Consul in Iceland, Ms. Priscilla Zanoria. An engineer by profession, Ms. Zanoria was appointed RP Honorary Consul when Iceland was covered by the RP Embassy in London.
The Embassy’s economic activities in Iceland for 2008 focused on presenting a positive image of the country to encouarge increased economic activity, investments into RP as well as Icelandic tourists to the country. Despite the economic crisis, the Envent, an Icelandic Geothermal firm and a major geothermal developer in the Philippines and subsidiary of Geysir Green Energy, announced the signing of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Biliran Electric Cooperative (BILECO) for about 8,600 MWh per year of clean, renewable electricity at a levelized price of $94 per MWh. The total value over the 10-year term is about USD 47 million. The baseload electricity will come from Envent’s 50 MW Biliran Unit I geothermal power plant, which is scheduled to come online in 2012 on Biliran Island in the Philippines.
During calls on officials of the Icelandic Foreign Ministry and other government entities by ambassador Elizabeth P. Buensuceso in 2009, RP interest in enhancing cooperation in geothermal energy and fisheries were raised. (Geothermal energy and the fishing industry are the backbone of Icelandic economy).
The Philippines and Norway enjoy robust and cordial relations in all three pillars of Philippine foreign policy- economic, political and people-to- people cooperation.
The maritime sector is one of the most important aspects of RP-Norway bilateral relations, dating back to the 1900’s. Today, Norwegian ship owners employ approximately 35,000 Filipino seafarers in shipyards or on board Norwegian owned or controlled vessels, a testimonial to the trust and confidence Norwegian shipowners have placed over the years for Filipino seafarers. Despite the global economic crisis that ravaged the shipping industry in 2008 and 2009, this area of employment has not slackened. Filipino seafarers benefit as well from the education and training provided by sophisticated Norwegian maritime training schools in the Philippines. Norwegian ship owners have been building and repairing vessels in Philippine shipyards. Many companies engaged in the maritime sector have put up offices in the Philippines.
Other areas point to a promising future. With the purchase in 2007 of the Magat and Ambuklao and Binga hydroelectricity plants by SN Power and their Filipino partner, the Aboitiz group, cooperation in the area of renewable energy between the two countries should continue as both countries have declared their commitments to develop and use renewable energy. New areas of commercial cooperation include aquaculture, telecommunications, the petroleum sector and the use of IT in outsourcing. There has also been a marked increase in the number of Norwegian tourists visiting the Philippines.
There is an increasing number of Filipinos in Norway, now home to over 12,000 hard-working and highly educated Filipinos. In addition to Filipinos who have intermarried with Norwegians, there are at least 900 licensed Filipino nurses , over a hundred oil engineers employed mostly in offshore projects in the western coast of Norway and Filipinos or Norwegians of Filipino descent working in the government sector, diplomatic missions and NGO’s and commercial establishments. While fiercely proud of their heritage, Filipinos in Norway have shown a remarkable capacity to integrate into Norwegian culture and at the same time contribute elements of their culture making this Scandinavian society a melting pot of diverse cultures. The 2007 Miss Norway, Miss Kirby Ann Basken, is half Filipino, half Norwegian. They have also time and again rallied to the help of their motherland, the Philippines, when disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes strike. They remit a good amount of their earnings to their families in the Philippines and have their own investments in the country of their origin.
Norway is also playing a significant role as a third-party facilitator between GOP and the CCP-NDF-NPA, in the Philippine government’s efforts to find a lasting solution in the peace process. Both countries have also supported each other in the United Nations and other fora, especially in the areas of human rights, gender equality and global peace.
History of Philippine-Norwegian Diplomatic Relations
The Philippines established diplomatic relations with Norway on 2 March 1948. Minister Nikolai Aal was the first official to represent Norway in the Philippines (based in what was then Nanking, China). From 1952 to 1956, Norway was represented by a Consulate, later, by a Consulate General in Manila. The Embassy was opened in 1967.
In the past, the Philippine Ambassador in the United Kingdom was responsible for our relations with Norway along with Denmark. In June 1986, this responsibility was transferred from the Philippine Embassy in London to the Philippine Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.
Due to the increasing number of Filipinos in Norway as well as the many promising opportunities in energy and marine/maritime-related fields, the Philippines established its Embassy in Oslo, Norway on 30 April 2007.
Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Denmark were established on 28 September 1946. In the past, the Philippine Embassy in the United Kingdom was responsible for the Philippines’ relations with Denmark. In 1979, this responsibility was transferred to the Philippine Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, which, at that time, also handled the Philippines’ diplomatic links with the other Nordic countries (Norway and Finland). When the Philippine Embassy in Oslo, Norway was established in 30 April 2007, jurisdiction over Denmark was transferred to the latter.
Denmark, on the other hand, maintains an Embassy in Malaysia whose envoy exercises concurrent jurisdiction over the Philippines. Despite differences in political and social structures, both countries have found common causes in both regional and international affairs.