By Michael Aaron Gomez
The Ateneo de Davao University welcomed His Excellency Gerardo Lozano Arredondo, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Mexican States to the Republic of the Philippines, to a forum on Philippine-Mexico relations held at the Miguel Pro Learning Commons, 2F Community Center of the First Companions, Jacinto campus, on the morning of Friday, 6 September 2019. The ambassador gave the student audience an overview of the culture, traditions, and the contemporary society of Mexico; he highlighted cultural and traditional elements unique to Mexico, from to its cuisine and its art, as well as elements shared by both Mexico and the Philippines, including the devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe.
After a courtesy visit to University President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J., the ambassador and the president headed together to the venue to begin the forum. Fr. Tabora also delivered the opening address to formally welcome the dignitaries to the University. In the address, he elaborated on the “rich, shared history of evangelization, commercialization, and intercontinental relationship” between the two nations, one that “spans almost half a millennium.”
As part of Ambassador Arredondo’s talk, he expanded on what he termed “magic towns,” comprising smaller cities outside of the globally known Mexican metropolises. “This is a project that we are trying to share with the Philippines,” he said, “because in the Philippines there are small towns that are not so well-known, but with this program, in which these cities have financial support from the government, [we can] exchange preservation of heritage, [which] activity is very important.”
“Asia plays a very important role in this effort [of economic diversification],” Arredondo continued, contextualizing his explication of Mexico’s contemporary economic situation and of possible trading options. “The Philippines can play a very important role as the gateway to Asia, and to open as a window for Mexican merchandisers.” Moving on to discuss the historical connections between Mexico and the Philippines, Arredondo said, “Thanks to the very famous Acapulco-Manila galleon trade, we started very early a very important relation that allowed the countries to exchange merchandise, also people, cultures, traditions.” About contemporary Philippine-Mexico relations and the challenges it faces, Arredondo also said, “As developing countries, Mexico and the Philippines face several challenges, such as immigration, the fight against poverty, the fight against drugs, climate change, natural disaster, and economic inequality.” He also said that both countries also share the goal of generating “better life conditions” for their citizens.
The floor was also opened for questions from the students in the audience. One student posed a question on the similarities of strategy between Mexico and the Philippines in tackling the problem of illegal drugs. “Both countries share the commitment to fight this activity,” Arredondo said. “We consider that the trade of illegal drugs has a very negative effect, mainly in population, but also in economic terms.” He also added, “The strategy can depend on the reality of the country itself and the characteristics of the country. In Mexico we consider the drug problem as a global problem, which cannot be solved without international collaboration.”
In the context of economics, and economic possibilities, Fr. Tabora also asked, “How is Mexico dealing with China? Are you open to a stronger relationship with China? Or do you feel threatened by China? Both in terms of manufacturing and the economy, but also as a security measure?”
“Mexico has been open to the Chinese economy,” the ambassador answered. “We need to learn much more about Chinese culture. In Mexico, very few people speak Chinese.” He also added, “Though we are convinced of the importance of the Chinese market, we approach very slowly.”
The Ateneo de Davao University looks forward to helping grow and foster a culture of friendship as well as a productive partnership between the Philippines and Mexico.