Philippines Seeking to Boost Ties with Iran

A04350488.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- The Philippines is raising its level of diplomatic ties with the oil-rich Islamic Republic, as the Department of Foreign Affairs seeks to finalize various agreements on terrorism, transnational crimes, as well as the extradition of criminals and the transfer of sentenced persons.

This October, the DFA, headed by DFA Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Domingo Lucenario Jr., is set to forge a consular agreement with Iran as a first step to the other agreements after both governments concluded the Joint Consular Commission Meeting last month in Tehran.

“The talks covered a wide range of consular issues, particularly on matters that affect the assistance to and protection of nationals (of both countries),” said Lucenario, adding that this includes notification of arrests and detention and access to prisoners.

The soon-to-be-signed accord, on the other hand, seeks “to create the proper environment and administrative arrangements that will be conducive to the expansion of scientific and educational cooperation between the two countries,” he said.

Lucenario said both parties also raised the possibility of entering into other agreements like visa waiver for diplomatic passport holders as well as the transfer of sentenced persons, mutual legal assistance, and extradition of criminals.

He said the discussions also explored possible cooperation in combating terrorism and transnational crime.

Another form of cooperation being explored by the two nations includes mutual recognition of academic degrees issued by their respective education institutions.

Iran has been criticized by Western countries for its nuclear program.

But the Philippines, which has some 1,200 Filipinos working in Iran, has been pushing for wider political and economic cooperation with Iran to gain leverage on its bid for an observer status in the influential Organization of Islamic Conference, of which Iran is a member.

According to DFA statistics, of the 1,238 Filipinos in Iran, 722 are permanent residents while 516 are temporary residents.

“Both sides expressed confidence that negotiations for these agreements would be completed for signing during the 5th Joint Commission Meeting between the two countries in October 2008,” said Lucenario.

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