Iran keen on buying more PHL bananas, exploring cooperation in infra, energy

MANILA, Oct. 21 – Iran is keen on fostering better economic relations with the Philippines and, for starters, plans to import more bananas and explore areas of investment and cooperation in infrastructure and energy.

In a recent courtesy call on Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Iranian Ambassador to Manila Mohammad Tanhaei said Tehran also wants to strengthen connections between his country’s Central Bank and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to pave the way for Iranian investors to start doing business in the Philippines.

The ambassador also informed Dominguez that a Deputy Minister of Iran’s Finance Ministry would be visiting the country in the first week of November to discuss with Philippine officials a framework of cooperation between Manila and Tehran.

Tanhaei said he is going to invite the head of Iran’s Central Bank to visit the Philippines to discuss issues on banking cooperation with the BSP.

In response, Dominguez said: “We do want to improve our relationship with Iran and we would be very happy to meet your Central Bank Governor.”

Dominguez likewise assured Tanhaei that he would “be happy to assist him” and “will certainly welcome all of Iran’s officials” to Manila to help reinvigorate bilateral relations between the two countries.

Tanhaei said he has been coordinating with local business groups like the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) to explore areas of investments for Iranian companies.

“In the (Iranian) private sector…for example regarding bananas, there are some big companies that said we still need more bananas from the Philippines,” Tanhaei said.

Filipino banana producers used to export 30 percent of their produce to Iran.

The past UN trade restrictions imposed on the Iran, however, led to a decline in Philippine banana shipments to that country. The recent lifting of the trade sanctions could mean Iran might once again be one of the Philippines’ largest markets for its fresh banana exports.

Tanhaei also said Iranian companies are interested in investing in the Philippines, particularly in infrastructure, power transmission and water purification projects

The Iranian government, for its part, has expressed interest in working with the Philippines’ energy sector, particularly in the fields of oil exploration and the petroleum product trade, Tanhaei said.

Tanhaei noted that Manila and Tehran enjoy strong political relations, but can do more in reinforcing their economic ties, citing the Philippines as one of Iran’s “country priorities.”

The Iranian ambassador also raised the possibility of establishing branches of Iranian banks in the Philippines and for the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) to do the same in Iran, citing the need to provide banking facilities for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) based in this Middle Eastern country.

Dominguez told Tanhaei he will look into the ambassador’s proposal on the establishment of LandBank branches in Iran for the benefit of OFWs there.

Diplomatic relations between Manila and Tehran were established on Jan. 22, 1964.

Iran has consistently supported the peace process in Mindanao and also backed the Philippines’ application for observer status in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).