Ambassador Mariano Dumia was the guest speaker of the Mabini Dialogue Series’ lecture on “Iranian Foreign Policy and 50 Years of Philippine-Iran Relations” held last 2 October 2014 at the Foreign Service Institute. Ambassador Dumia served at the Philippine Embassy in Tehran as Minister and Consul General from 1996 to 1997, and Charge d’Affaires from 2010 to 2012 in the same post.
Ambassador Dumia presented the history of Philippines-Iran relations, its evolution, notable achievements, persistent challenges, and the future of the relations in a dynamic global environment. He discussed early trade relations and traced the socio-cultural ties between the Filipinos and the Iranians to the 12th century. This is manifested in the existence of common Filipino and Iranian words and names of people and places found in the Philippines.
With the establishment of Philippines-Iran diplomatic ties in 1964, Iran had the distinction of being the first country destination for Filipino professionals and workers – doctors, nurses, engineers, mechanics, and radio operators – in the Middle East in the 1960’s and `70’s. As of 2012, there were 3,640 Filipinos in Iran and about 7,000 Iranians in the Philippines, mostly students.
He also discussed the close bilateral ties between the Philippines and Iran, citing Iran’s support for the Philippines’ bid for “Observer” status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and its support for the OIC-backed Philippine government’s peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that culminated in the signing of the peace agreement calling for the creation of an autonomous Bangsamoro region in Muslim Mindanao. The Philippine government in 2008, meanwhile, supported Iran’s right to pursue its nuclear power program for peaceful use. Both countries are also closely cooperating in the campaign against human and drug trafficking.
Bilateral trade and investment between the two countries has remained slow-paced, minimal and even stagnant, however, mainly because of the international economic sanctions against Iran, inadequate information and misperceptions of Filipino businessmen, and what some analysts describe as “constraints of third party interference in the country’s foreign policy and the Philippine government’s inability to assert its political will.”
In conclusion, Ambassador Dumia said that a peaceful, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Iran-West nuclear issue would eliminate the current “barriers” of overall Philippines-Iran bilateral relations.