(Eagle News) — Outgoing Ambassador and Consul General of the Republic of Panama to the Philippines, H.E. Rolando A. Guevara Alvarado, led a forum at the New Era University auditorium on Wednesday, Oct. 16, after his courtesy call to the Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) Brother Eduardo V. Manalo.
The Ambassador expressed not only his gratitude towards the NEU students and its faculty members, but also expressed his hope that Panamanian ties to the Filipino people will grow stronger.
At the start of his lecture at NEU, Ambassador Guevara expressed his “deep appreciation” to the NEU and to Eagle Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) for extending the invitation for him to have a farewell lecture at the NEU Forum.
He said he is ending his tour of duty of almost five years as Ambassador and Consul General of the Republic of Panama to the Philippines “full of gratitude and wonderful moments for which I feel blessed.”
“Two years back in this same university, I have expressed that this country has embraced me as a special guest. Now, I am fully convinced and with great pride, I reiterate to you that I feel and will always be deeply grateful,” he said.
The Ambassador said that since 1973, when Panama and the Philippines first started to establish diplomatic relations, the ties between the two countries had flourished.
“The Republic of Panama and the Philippines share the fact of being countries that have similar history and background.” Ambassador Guevara said.
-PHL, “the most Latin America country in Asia,” says Ambassador Guevara-
“I see the Philippines as the most Latin American country in Asia,” he noted.
Guevara said that the two countries shared the “same history of conquest and colonization by the Spanish crown.”
“Latinos and Filipinos mirrored themselves in the product of years and years of struggle against imperialism, colonialism, poverty and a quest to achiever ourselves the determination of getting our true identity as an independent country,” he explained.
“I consider that there is a twin connection between our countries, distinct from the rest of Latin America.”
He said that both Panama and the Philippines also “experienced a strong physical presence of the United States of America in all areas of politics, economics and culture.”
He pointed out that Panama also used to host U.S. military bases back in the time when the Panama canal was under the American administration.
He also noted the identical climates of Panama and the Philippines, sharing “the same equator, but from opposite sides of the world.”
Because of these similarities, Ambassador Guevara said Panama is an ideal destination for Filipinos as tourists and OFWs.
-Panama as an ideal tourist destination-
He said Panama ranks third on travel and tourism competitiveness among Latin American countries. It has one of the best international airports, the Tocumen International Airport, and the 8th Wonder the of the World and engineering marvel — the Panama Canal — that was further expanded in 2016
“[Panama is the] best-kept secret in the Americas, still to be explored by many travelers,” Ambassador Guevara said.
It also has a rich biodiversity, with biodiverse rainforests and national parks covering 5 million acres.
“A key indicator of its biodiversity: Panama has 944 recorded bird species, more than the US and Canada combined,” he said.
Panama is also one of the safest countries in Latin America for tourists, the Ambassador said, and offers a very rich and diverse gastronomy. It is also the country with the largest and sophisticated banking system in America.
It is also a country mainly of services, with its mining industry starting to flourish which resulted in the deployment to Panama of more than a thousand Filipino workers who are experts in the mining sector, the Ambassador noted.
-Filipinos working in Panama, praised-
He said that there are also a number of Filipinos working in Panama as nurses, caregivers and household service workers.
But the biggest industry employing Filipinos is the Panamanian shipping industry, he said.
“As many of you may probably know, the Republic of Panama has the largest fleet of ships registered under our Panamanian flag, and the Filipino seafarers are by far the majority task force representing approximately 60 percent of the seamen working on Panama flag vessels,” the Ambassador said.
He noted that Filipino seafarers are “world class workers, preferred by most shipping employers.”
The shipping industry is in fact the strongest area for both Panama and Philippine cooperation.
“It is without a doubt that the Philippines retains the title as the crewing capital of the world,” he said.
Ambassador Guevara notes how Filipinos are hardworkers, but still have time for family and friends, just like the people of Panama.
He said Panama is looking forward to strengthening its commercial ties with the Philippines.
“We invite the Filipino community to do business with Panama as we are the gateway to Latin America,” he said.
“Let us bring closer ‘the bridge of the Americas’ and the ‘Pearl of the Orient,’” he said.
The Panamanian ambassador was warmly welcomed by officials of the NEU and EBC when he visited the university for the second time.
He said he was “overwhelmed” with the warm welcome he received from the community and that he feels blessed and thankful for the friendship extended to him by Filipinos.
(with a report from Candy Megia, Eagle News Service)