The Philippines and the United Kingdom have had a long history of interaction dating back to the Sir Francis Drake’s landing in Mindanao in 1579 after an almost three year circumnavigational voyage on board Golden Hind. Economic interaction would define the relationship between the two countries over several centuries, with the Philippines becoming part of the footprint of the East India Company and British companies leading the way in building transportation infrastructure in the Philippines. The Second World War also saw the two countries fighting on the same side.
From 1762 to 1764, the United Kingdom occupied Manila and its surrounding environs, up to the province of Cavite. The Philippines was considered war booty when Spain, an ancillary to France, was involved in the Seven Years’ War. The British occupied Manila and drew-up a three-year plan to administer the archipelago. The archipelago was eventually handed back to Spain in the Treaty of Paris of 1763. Other than the administrative plan, the British drew up admiralty charts of Manila, its famous Bay, the Spanish fortified town of Intramuros, and the province of Cavite. Some of these maps, including the administrative plan, are housed at the British Library, and the National Archives in Kew.
Formal diplomatic relations were eventually established between the Philippines and the UK on 4 July 1946. Since then, the two governments have worked tirelessly to foster more robust political, economic, cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
Through the years, the relationship has been nurtured by frequent exchanges at the highest levels of government as well as a very healthy economic interaction. President Benigno S. Aquino III visited London on 4-6 June 2012, as guest of the British Government. The latest high-level British official to visit the Philippines was Foreign Secretary of State William Hague MP last 29-30 January 2014.
Importance of the Relations
Over the last decade, relations between the two countries have been marked by a keener British interest in Philippine economic and political developments, as shown by a sharp rise in development assistance, the number and frequency of high-level visits to Manila, and the significant increase in the volume of trade and investments. Britain is currently the largest European investor in the Philippines and likewise the biggest tourism market in the continent at 120,000 visitors annually.
In terms of foreign affairs, the United Kingdom has remained a vital partner in the Mindanao peace process. It was an active founding member of the International Contact Group that provided advice to both the GPH and MILF negotiating panels.
The Philippines and the UK likewise have manifested convergent interests in global and regional matters, particularly in counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, interfaith work, promotion of human rights and the democratization of Myanmar.
Equally important to Philippine interests are the protection and promotion of the welfare of the growing Filipino community in the United Kingdom. Over the past 20 years, the number of Filipinos living and working in the UK has increased tremendously and now numbers about 200,000. They work in a variety of sectors, such as information technology, engineering, aviation, education, hospitality and healthcare.
Most notably, the UK has been relying on the professional expertise of thousands of Filipino workers to fill critical gaps in the delivery of health services, exemplified by the influx of Filipino nurses whose skills and professional dedication have made them an essential part of the UK National Health Service.
There are also a significant number of Filipino scholars, many leaders in their respective fields, who have been selected for postgraduate programs in British universities.
To date, there are about 100 Filipino community associations/charities in the UK that are registered with the Philippine Embassy.