The Philippines and the United Kingdom (UK) share a long history of interaction dating as far back to Sir Francis Drake’s landing in Mindanao in 1579 after an almost three-year circumnavigational voyage on board the Golden Hind.
Economic interaction would shape the relationship between the two countries for several centuries, with the Philippines becoming part of the footprint of the East India Company and British companies, which led the way in building the Philippines’ transportation infrastructure, establishing Iloilo as an international trading port, and igniting the Philippines’ sugar boom in Central Visayas.
From 1762 to 1764, the United Kingdom occupied Manila and its surrounding areas, stretching as far as 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 through 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 Cavite. Some of these maps, including the administrative plan, are housed at the British Library, and the National Archives in Kew.
During World War II, the Philippines and the United Kingdom fought on the same side and triumphed.
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 stronger political, economic, cultural, and people-to-people ties.
Central to its bilateral relationship is the Philippines-United Kingdom Joint Plan of Action (JPA) signed in Manila on 11 December 2012. It is a political document that serves as a framework for bilateral cooperation covering five key areas: political, economic, consular and law enforcement, cultural, and regional and global issues.
Through the years, the relationship has been nurtured by frequent exchanges permeating various levels of government. President Benigno S. Aquino III visited London on 4-6 June 2012, as a guest of the British Government. The latest high-level British official to visit the Philippines was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond MP on 7 January 2016.
The relations between the two countries have been marked by 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 with roughly 180,000 visitors in the first half of 2018 alone.
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 United Kingdom also share strong ties in education with the recent transnational education partnership between top Philippine and British universities in the past two years, and the steady influx of Filipino scholars in many of the UK’s premier universities.
The Philippines and the UK likewise have manifested convergent interests in global and regional matters, particularly in counter-terrorism, interfaith work, climate change, disaster management and a strong adherence to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law.
The strength of bilateral ties between UK and the Philippines is rests on the strong links between our peoples. There are over 200,000 Filipinos living and working in the UK, many of them already British citizens and contributing positively to the fabric of British society. They work in a variety of sectors, such as information technology, engineering, aviation, education, and hospitality. Most notably, the UK has been relying on the professional expertise of over 14,000 healthcare workers in the National Health Service, bringing their high level of professional qualification and strong caring skills to fill critical gaps in the delivery of healthcare services. On the other hand, around 17,000 British citizens live permanently in the Philippines.
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 valuable skills and professional dedication have made them an essential part of the UK National Health Service.
There is also a significant number of Filipino scholars, many leaders in their respective fields, who have been selected for postgraduate programs in British universities and a handful of British scholars undertaking research in the Philippines particularly on tropical diseases, colonial art, and anthropology, among others.
To date, there are more than 100 Filipino community associations/charities in the UK registered with the Philippine Embassy.
Agreements Signed Between the Philippines and the UK
- Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation between the Philippines and the UK (signed 4 December 2017)
- Air Services Agreement (signed 11 December 2012)
- Joint Plan of Action (signed 11 December 2012)
- Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines and Military Delegations (signed and entered into force 13 Nov 2009)
- Extradition Treaty (signed 18 September 2009)
- Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (signed 18 September 2009, entered into force 01 June 2012)
- MOA on Advance Education/Training Program for Filipino Caregivers (signed and entered into force on 05 March 2005)
- MOU on Healthcare Cooperation (signed 30 July 2003, entered into force 06 January 2006)
- Recruitment Agreement (signed 08 January 2002)
- MOU on Law Enforcement Cooperation and Combating Child Abuse (signed 30 August 1997)
- MOU on Women’s and Children’s Protection Course Between the British Government and the Philippine National Police (signed and entered into force 30 August 1997)
- Concessional Financing Agreements (signed and entered into force 01 September 1995)
- PH-UK Manila Airport Security Equipment Grant 1994 (signed and entered into force 31 January 1995)
- PH-UK Small Islands Electrification Grant 1990 (signed and entered into force 10 December 1990)
- PH-UK Exchange of Notes on Agreement No. 2 on the rescheduling of PH debts with UK (signed 22 January 1987, entered into force 25 March 1988)
- PH-UK Agreement on Certain Commercial Debts (signed and entered into force 04 February 1986)
- Social Security Agreement (signed 27 Feb 1985, entered into force 01 December 1989)
- MOU on the Promotion and Protection of Investments (signed and entered into force on 17 December 1985)
- Agreement for the Promotion and Protection of Investments (signed 03 Dec 1980, entered into force 02 January 1981)
- Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and Capital Gains (signed 10 June 1976, entered into force 23 January 1978)
- Agreement on Air Services (relating to designation of routes) (signed and entered into force on 31 January 1955)
- PH-UK Agreement on Air Services Between and Beyond Their Territories (signed and entered into force on 31 January 1955)