Philippines-Iceland Relations

Iceland was the last country in Europe to be settled, by Vikings and Celts, in the 9th and 10th Century AD. The nation converted to Christianity in 1000 (the year in which Iceland-born Leif Eiriksson was the first European to set foot in the Americas). From the Middle Ages she was a Norwegian and later a Danish colony. She gained Home Rule in 1904 and then separate sovereign status under the Danish crown in 1918. During WW II, the country was benignly occupied, first by British and then by US forces. Iceland became an independent republic on 17 June 1944.

The country joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 and subsequently received an American air force base in 1951. In 1970, it was admitted to the European Free Trade Association. Iceland unilaterally extended its territorial fishing limits from 3 to 200 nautical miles in 1972, precipitating a dispute with the UK known as the “cod wars,” which ended in 1976 when the UK recognized the new limits. In 1980, the Icelanders elected a woman to the office of the presidency, the first elected female chief of state (i.e. president as distinct from the prime minister) in the world. After the recession of the early 1990s. Iceland’s economy rebounded. At the International Whaling Commission meeting in July 2001, Iceland refused to agree to the continuation of the moratorium on commercial whaling that had been in effect since 1986. In 2003, after a 14-year lull, the country began hunting whales for scientific research.

In October 2009, Iceland declared bankruptcy after its major banks collapsed causing the collapse of the entire economy. Iceland is still recovering from the effects of the global economic crisis.

History of Philippine-Iceland Diplomatic Relations

The Philippines established diplomatic relations with Iceland in 1999. Iceland was covered by the Philippine Embassy in London until jurisdiction was transferred to the Philippine Embassy in Oslo, which was opened in April 2007.

The Philippines and Iceland enjoy smooth and friendly relations. Iceland, with a population of 350,000, is a home to approximately 1,500 Filipinos.

The Filipinos in Iceland, who are mostly office and factory workers, are held in high esteem. In recent years, Filipino nurses have made their way into Iceland.

The Philippines has an Honorary Consul in Iceland, Ms. Priscilla Zanoria. An engineer by profession, Ms. Zanoria was appointed RP Honorary Consul when Iceland was covered by the RP Embassy in London.

The Embassy’s economic activities in Iceland for 2008 focused on presenting a positive image of the country to encouarge increased economic activity, investments into RP as well as Icelandic tourists to the country. Despite the economic crisis, the Envent, an Icelandic Geothermal firm and a major geothermal developer in the Philippines and subsidiary of Geysir Green Energy, announced the signing of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Biliran Electric Cooperative (BILECO) for about 8,600 MWh per year of clean, renewable electricity at a levelized price of $94 per MWh. The total value over the 10-year term is about USD 47 million. The baseload electricity will come from Envent’s 50 MW Biliran Unit I geothermal power plant, which is scheduled to come online in 2012 on Biliran Island in the Philippines.

During calls on officials of the Icelandic Foreign Ministry and other government entities by ambassador Elizabeth P. Buensuceso in 2009, RP interest in enhancing cooperation in geothermal energy and fisheries were raised. (Geothermal energy and the fishing industry are the backbone of Icelandic economy).