Biliran Geothermal. Photo by Jalmz
Biliran Geothermal. Photo by Jalmz

By Bernadette D. Nicolas

DESPITE President Duterte’s venting his ire on Iceland and “seriously considering” severing ties with that country for sponsoring a UN resolution to investigate drug-war related killings, Malacañang said on Tuesday economic relations between the two countries will continue. Iceland’s investments in geothermal energy, particularly in the Biliran Geothermal Incorporated, will remain intact.

In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo expressed confidence that economic cooperation with the Nordic country will not be affected following the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adoption of the Iceland resolution by a minority vote.

The resolution adopted by 48-member UNHRC last week required UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to prepare a comprehensive report on the human-rights situation in the Philippines that will be presented to the council’s 44th session.

“I don’t think even if you cut ties with a particular country, if it benefits that country to be entering into a commercial agreement with one who cuts its ties, I don’t think they will sever that relationship. It’s only the diplomatic relations,” Panelo said.

According to the Philippine Embassy web site, the Philippines and Iceland have been “steady partners” in the areas of maritime, mining, renewable energy, medical services, fisheries and geothermal energy.

Iceland’s investments in the Philippines include the Biliran Geothermal Inc., a joint venture of Filtech Energy Drilling Corp. and ORKA Energy Philippines where ORKA Energy of Iceland has equity.

Aside from this, there is continued employment of Filipinos in Iceland as nurses, and office and factory workers.

Panelo added he also does not see Iceland deporting Filipino workers.

While the Philippines has no embassy in Iceland, it maintains a consulate in Reykjavik. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1999.

Asked if the consulate will be removed following the President’s pronouncement, Panelo can’t say as it is still too early to tell.

He added the President is still “mulling” over it.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. has also said the Philippines will not cut ties with Iceland nor leave the UNHRC.

Malacañang has since rejected the Iceland resolution, calling it “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow and maliciously partisan” and “was designed to embarrass the Philippines before the international community and the global audience.”

Eighteen of the 47 member-countries voted in favor of the resolution during the 41st session in Geneva last Thursday. Fourteen states, including China, voted against the resolution, while 15 abstained.

Human-rights advocates have since criticized the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, which allegedly involved extrajudicial killings, but the government has also denied that the killings were state-sponsored.

In the past, the President has also repeatedly lashed out against United Nations special rapporteurs seeking an investigation into his drug war, saying they should not meddle with the country’s affairs.


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