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Legarda: PH govt should pursue cultural diplomacy through academic cooperation

October 19, 2019

Deputy Speaker and Antique Congresswoman Loren Legarda today urged the Philippine government through the Department of Foreign Affairs to further strengthen its cultural diplomacy program through more partnerships with leading academic institutions.

The former Senator expressed hope that the government will take advantage of such opportunities to enrich our own culture after the signing of an agreement between the Philippine Consulate General in Frankfurt and the Ruhr University Bochum, creating a Philippine studies program, which was held on 15 October 2019 in Bochum, Germany. The signing ceremony was attended by Consul General Evelyn D. Austria-Garia, Rector Professor Axel Schlömerich, Vice Rector Professor Dr. Komelia Freitag, Director for International Affairs Monika Sprung, Professor Roger Friedlein, and Vice Consul Mejilla Meuller.

The signing of the agreement will pave the way for students and teachers exchange, exchange of expertise and technical knowhow in biodiversity, conservation, climate change and philology among other areas of interest. The program was made possible by Deputy Speaker Legarda, through an initial funding of P5 million under the 2019 DFA budget to support such academic and research activities.

“This is the third academic agreement cooperation that I have worked on knowing that cultural diplomacy is one of the pillars of Philippine foreign policy, and academic cooperation is a means to promote cultural diplomacy. Through such agreements, the international community will not only know about our history as a nation but also appreciate who we are as a people. It will also allow us to show our counterparts our accomplishments in the different disciplines of the academe,” Legarda said.

In 2017, an agreement between the Philippine Embassy in London and the School of African and Oriental Studies in the University of London was forged for the development of a Philippine Studies Program. This was the first academic cooperation agreement that Legarda, then chair of the Senate Committees on Finance and Foreign Relations, sponsored by way of allocating funds under the agency budget.

The PH-SOAS agreement, signed Philippine Ambassador Antonio Lagdameo and SOAS Director Baroness Valerie Amos, was intended to cover Philippine-related lectures, workshops, exhibitions, conferences and travel grants for students and academics doing research in the region and for Philippine students and staff studying at SOAS. This will also include an Annual Philippine Studies Workshop and publication; an Annual Postgraduate Conference on Southeast Asian Studies; Philippine film screenings and digitization of SOAS Philippine materials.

A similar program is also being implemented currently in Humboldt University in Berlin, which was launched in July this year.

Legarda also gladly announced that “in coordination with our foreign posts, we are partnering with other universities for the development of similar programs: Humboldt University of Berlin, the Universidad de Complutense de Madrid, and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies – Yusof Ishak Institute which all be launched this year. Each program will be customized to serve as a tool to further enhance the diplomatic ties we have with the countries where these academic institutions are located.”

“Our own academic community will likewise greatly benefit from these exchanges. Nowadays, information and knowledge exchange is crucial in strengthening the ties between and among nations. We must therefore create more learning opportunities for our own people to make them even more skilled, knowledgeable and competitive,” Legarda concluded.***