Itamar Gero Sits Down with Big Sound FM Radio to Talk About Philippine Agriculture, Tourism, and More

  • Standard
  • 19 Mar 2018
  • ICCP
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The Philippines has the land that will sustain the people – and even help farmers profit from it– but the infrastructure to mobilize goods are lacking. Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ICCP) President Itamar Gero stated as much during a recent radio interview with Weng de la Peña of Big Sound FM. In the interview, he discussed the country’s prospects in agriculture, tourism, and business.

Agribusiness: The Thing That’s Missing Is Infrastructure

The ICCP held the Agri Innovation Forum recently, where agriculture experts from Israel and the Philippines provided their insights on the local agriculture sector and its challenges and prospects.

According to Gero, Israel’s success in agriculture was anchored on its principle, “grow more with less.” He explained how a small country such as Israel, with a population much lower than Metro Manila, developed sophisticated technologies that were integrated into their agricultural process.  

He said the success of Israel in agriculture began with its first Prime Minister David Gurion. Gurion challenged engineers and scientists to come up with solutions on how Israel can grow food in the desert.  “Now we’re exporting these solutions to other countries in Africa, to China, and starting with the Philippines, as well. We’re also big exporters of flowers and produce; it’s an amazing story.”

Gero believes that the potential is here to bring in advanced Israeli technology to the country. “There are already millions of farmers in the Philippines, which are more than enough, (and) they need to be trained.”  

He mentioned the MASHAV program of the Embassy of Israel, which sends Filipino students every year to Israel. About 500 students have been sent to Israel for internship, to learn and study the state’s agricultural technology and techniques.  

Gero also cited Arsenio “Toto” Barcelona, the President and CEO of Harbest, as one of the many Filipinos who took the MASHAV short course in Israel and went home to implement what he learned. “He went to Israel to train for 12 days. He came back, he improvised a lot of things, things that probably 12 years ago he couldn’t afford buying from Israel then,“ he said.

The landmass of the Philippines is abundant, but the technology is lacking, Gero stated. “In the value chain, the thing that’s missing the most is the infrastructure to mobilize things, to keep them fresh, to keep them cool, to send them around.”

Tourism: Every Province Should Take Care of Its Tourism

When it comes to tourism in the Philippines, Gero shared his observation of how the province of Bohol in the Visayas has improved its tourism industry since he first visited a decade ago. “When I brought my client to Bohol last year, the difference is outstanding and I see someone took care of the tourism in Bohol very seriously.”

Gero thinks the tourism prospects in the country are very good, and hopes that every province takes care of its tourism industry the way Bohol did. He added that the tourism industry should come up with sustainable programs for the coming years.

When asked about tourism in Israel, he explained that traveling to Israel is easier than ever with four airlines going to Tel Aviv, namely, El Al Israel Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Ethiopian Airlines. “People would be surprised that it’s not far-fetched, you don’t need a visa to go to Israel.”  

He recommended visiting the holy places such as Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, which are popular among Filipino travelers looking for pilgrimage tours. “We had a delegation last year.  Twenty people came to Israel and were amazed not just (with) the pilgrimages but the beach life and the food they’ve seen. Tel Aviv is an amazing city in every caliber.”

The Philippines-Israel Relations: We Help Each Other When We Can

The bilateral relationship between the Philippines and Israel is growing steadily and still has a great potential for expansion. “A lot of Israeli companies are realizing the potential in the Philippines and Philippine companies are investing in Israel, which is an encouraging thing to see,” said the ICCP president, who sees a bright future between the two countries.

The MASHAV program, which provides opportunities for Filipino students, shows the longstanding friendship between the two countries that began when the Philippines first opened its doors to Holocaust survivors. “It’s a very touching story. I think we reciprocate when we can, we help each other out when we can, and this program is a big part of it.”