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Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines Zvi Aviner Vapni has met with the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) officials to express his desire to see a business delegation visiting his country and vice versa.

"The problem is that we are not aware about each other. When we think of business, we don’t naturally think of Israel, and the other way around. Israelis would think of Vietnam and Indonesia, but for some reason, they are less aware of the Philippines,” he said.

Aviner said they plan to offer tourism and trade products in information technology and agriculture with the Philippines.

”If two countries are doing business with one another, they get to know each other. There will be many businesses coming in, more money, more work,” he added.

Vapni said although Israel does not have trade relations with countries surrounding it, it is still maintaining a “vibrant economy.”

Among their development of technology is to boost crop yield despite the lack of water and land. They are looking at Europe as a market.

They are also into information technology, he said.

He said four Israelis who, after their two-year mandatory military service, decided to form themselves into a company called Mirabilis and develop software they later named ICQ (I seek You) for people to get in touch with each other. American Online (AOL) came to buy the software for at least 400 million dollars.

Another Israeli invention is the “disgo key,” which people now call flash drive.

“These are among the first boosts of technology that pushed Israeli economy into new heights. Our government is subsidizing our people for a year or two to develop things such as start-ups. It’s a risky business. But with no oil and little water, Israel’s only resource is the brain of the people. We have to encourage them to take risks and be entrepreneurs,” Vapni said.

He said that technology is part of what Israel can offer to the Philippines, to help address problems in agriculture, water and security.

While Israel can develop, through the research and development, centers of big companies, such as Microsoft, Intel and Oracle, the Philippines could manufacture the things they will develop.

He also pointed out that many Israeli companies are looking for areas where they can build infrastructure, such as roads and hotels, and help boost the areas’ tourism industry.

”We could increase tourist traffic in both ways. Only 6,000 Filipinos go to Israel every year, with most of them on pilgrimage. If there are, as they say, nine million Filipinos who are middle-class, then there are nine million people who could afford to go to Israel,” he said.

He assured that tourists are safe in Israel, which is accommodating at least 3.5 million visitors every year. They are mostly from the Untied States, Europe, and Russia and visited pilgrim sites, such as Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Galilee.

At present, there are about 50,000 Filipinos in Israel, with 20,000 of them serving as caregivers. - Philippine News Agency

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