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65 years of Philippine-Swiss Connections: An Enduring Relationship

Betsy von Atzigen with Chargè d’Affaires Josephine M. Reynante, Switzerland

Photos by Philippine Embassy Berne

The Philippines and Switzerland celebrate in Berne 65 years of diplomatic relations.

CDA Josephine M. Reynante delivering her welcome remarks.

In a recent communication with Chargè d’Affaires Josephine M. Reynante on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of Philippine-Swiss Relations, she explains how Philippine diplomatic relations with Switzerland began, how it evolved into what it is today and how it’s moving forward.


The establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Switzerland began on 30 August 1956 upon the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries. Formal diplomatic relations ensued after the Exchange of Instruments of Ratification of the Treaty of Friendship between the Philippines and Switzerland took place on 21 January 1957. Thereafter, Ambassador Salvador P. Lopez, Philippine Ambassador to France, was concurrently accredited to Switzerland on 21 June 1957.

Swiss-Philippine bilateral relations actually predate formal diplomatic relations. Interactions between the two countries can be traced back to the early 1800s when Swiss traders, missionaries and travellers ventured into Southeast Asia.

The idea of opening a Swiss official representation in the Philippines was initiated in 1851, which finally culminated in the establishment of a Swiss honorary consulate in Manila in 1862. It was Switzerland’s first consulate in Asia.

Since then, exchanges between the two countries have flourished, particularly in the economic, cultural, social, and political spheres. These collaborative efforts have also been strengthened through the signing of numerous agreements in the fields of investments, visa waiver for diplomatic and official passport holders, mutual legal assistance, extradition, avoidance of double taxation, social security, and exchange of professional and technical trainees, among others.

What are the highlights of cooperation between our two nations in the sectors of trade, education, research, and innovation? Which Philippine products dominate Swiss markets?

Philippine-Swiss business relations go back to the last century with some big Swiss business names figuring prominently alongside big names in Philippine business. Counted among these are Nestle Philippines, Holcim Philippines, Glencore Switzerland, and SGS Philippines, to name a few.

To date, there are over 60 Swiss companies present in the Philippines employing around 15,000 Filipinos. About one-third or 28% of said Swiss companies belong to the industrial sector, while 72% are in the service sector. In addition, there are a number of Filipino/Swiss family-owned enterprises running small resorts and dive shops scattered around the archipelago.

Major exports of the Philippines to Switzerland are medical instruments, mineral compounds, electrical machines, textiles and apparel and other machinery, and yellowfin tuna.

Can you update us on Filipino immigration trends, employment, and social integration of our kababayans in Switzerland? Which canton do we find the biggest concentration of Filipinos? In which sector can the Filipino Swiss contribute more to society?

Filipinos living and working in Switzerland historically migrated to the country beginning in the late 70’s as: 1) spouses of Swiss nationals; 2) professionals employed by UN agencies and other international organizations or by Swiss and multinational companies; 3) nurses and health caregivers; 4) service workers engaged by foreign diplomatic missions and their personnel; 5) representatives of churches and religious organizations; or 6) employees in other sectors. Since then, Filipinos in Switzerland have worked and integrated in various sectors of Swiss society.

In Berne, majority of Filipinos are employed in different capacities in foreign missions (technical, administrative, and private staff) and residence of heads of diplomatic missions. A sizeable number are also found in hospitals and nursing homes, working either as nurses, caregivers, or administrative staff members.

In Zürich, Filipinos are grouped in a number of sectors, including nurses and those working in medical/health allied professions; IT, engineering, and various services sectors.

In Geneva, a large portion of Filipinos work in the UN and its other agencies. Some Filipinos are also doing domestic work and other technical jobs.

In general, Filipino workers in Switzerland enjoy satisfactory working conditions and terms of employment. They are among the highest paid workers in Europe.

The Filipino community in Switzerland is estimated at over 14,000, including dual citizens.

How does this bilateral relationship affect ASEAN relations as a whole?

The close relations between the Philippines and Switzerland extend to the multilateral arena, such as in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN ) where Switzerland is a sectoral dialogue partner. The Philippines supported Switzerland’s admission as an ASEAN sectoral dialogue partner.

What aims are in place to sustain and strengthen Philippine-Swiss connections beyond 65?

With the theme Philippine - Swiss Connections: An Enduring Relationship, the 65th Anniversary Philippine Swiss Diplomatic Relations held last Friday, 18 November 2022 at Hotel Schweizerhof Bern intended to resonate that the strongest ties that bind the two countries together are the various individuals and families who personify Philippine – Swiss connections.

People-to-people interactions and exchanges, such as Dr. Jose Rizal’s journey through Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Schaffhausen, and Geneva in 1887 during which he was impressed with the Swiss people's respect for human dignity and their struggle for freedom, are what makes our bilateral relations endure and blossom.

Today, this is manifested very clearly by, among others, Swiss-Filipino families running resorts and hospitality businesses in the Philippines, and Filipino-Swiss entrepreneurs who find innovative ways to do business in Switzerland.

Featured during the reception were Filipino nationals who exemplify these vital connections: Pamela Gotangco Hupp an artist based in Zurich whose “Islaw the kalabaw and Lilli the cow” collection was exhibited at the venue; MonAlp AG, founded by two siblings, Lloyd and Aileen Zumstein, who innovated mobile cheese processing for the benefit of alpine dairy farmers; Domingo S. Domingo, a chef who creates unique dishes by blending Philippine and Swiss processes and ingredients, and Ms. Erlita Terte, former nurse who became a winemaker.

The Embassy believes that there is a vast room for further broadening and deepening Philippine-Swiss relations. And the celebration is a mere acknowledgement of what have been achieved in the past 65 years and a foretaste of future directions. But as always, it is the warm and convivial relations among our peoples that will empower and energize our bilateral relations, promote, and sustain understanding, friendship and goodwill, and ultimately give meaning and relevance to what we do.

Heartfelt congratulations to the Philippines and Switzerland on the 65th anniversary of bilateral relations!

Guests from the Federal Department, Diplomatic Corp, Swiss and Filipino Community

Artist Pamela Gotangco Hupp presenting her “Islao and Heidi” collection (below).

Chef Domingo S. Domingo shares his journey in Switzerland.

Guests enjoyed Philippine ceviche.

Ms. Erlita Terte chronicles her journey from being a registered nurse to a winemaker in Switzerland.

Weingärtli’s Excellency specially bottled for the 65th anniversary of the establishment of Philippine-Swiss diplomatic relations.

The Nightingales serenaded the guests with a medley of multi-language songs.

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