Country ‘has cards to play’ in renewable energy in SE Asia

  • Lusa
  • 26 July 2023

Portugal's Foreign minister began an official visit to the region on Monday, to travel through Indonesia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines to discuss stepping up political and economic relations.

Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs, João Gomes Cravinho, told Lusa on Wednesday in Dili that Portugal “has cards to play” when it comes to cooperation in renewable energy with countries in southeast Asia.

Gomes Cravinho began an official visit to the region on Monday, to travel through Indonesia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines to discuss stepping up political and economic relations, and with the potential for cooperation in renewable energies highlighted.

According to the minister, renewable energies are among “the industries of the future” in an “area where all countries are seeking to achieve carbon neutrality” and “Portugal has cards to play in this matter; it is a sought after country.”

Gomes Cravinho is scheduled to meet with the minister of energy of the Philippines, Rafael Lotilla, in Manila on Thursday, as part of the first such visit by a minister from Portugal to the country.

“We will map the potential in the Portugal-Philippines relationship also in renewable energies,” he said.

The issue was also discussed on Monday at a meeting between Gomes Cravinho and Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi.

The development of renewable energy is “a huge challenge for Indonesia” – a country where, Gomes Cravinho recalled, Portugal “already has a very significant presence, through EDP Renováveis” – the separately quoted renewables subsidiary of Energias de Portugal – ” in solar and also in the transmission of electricity by submarine cable.”

After decades during which diplomatic relations with Indonesia were severed due to that country’s occupation of Timor-Leste, a former colony of Portugal, there are now the “seeds for a future of greater economic proximity” with Indonesia, Gomes Cravinho said.

He emphasised the potential for cooperation in the sea economy, “an area of great interest for Portugal” and where Indonesia, a country with more than 17,500 islands, has “enormous economic potential.”

The blue economy, as it is also called, can also be “an area of great cooperation” with the Philippines, a country “with which Portugal has friendly relations, but with little economic realisation,” lamented Gomes Cravinho.

On Friday, Gomes Cravinho is to be received by his counterpart in the Philippines, Enrique Manalo, to discuss the latter country’s role as coordinator of relations between the European Union, of which Portugal is a member, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which the Philippines is a member.

“Portugal has to be more present in Southeast Asia and this is a particularly favourable moment for that,” said Gomes Cravinho, referring to the prospect of Timor-Leste’s accession to ASEAN.

The leaders of the current ASEAN member states in May approved a roadmap for the Portuguese-speaking country to become a full member of the economic bloc, which has 650 million inhabitants.

“This opens doors for Timor[-Leste] and also opens doors for Portugal in Southeast Asia,” said Gomes Cravinho of the change.

On Tuesday, Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, speaking in Dili, argued that companies from Portugal should “increase their presence” in Timor-Leste so as to take advantage of the “huge opportunity” created by the country’s coming accession to ASEAN.