UNITED Kingdom Minister of State of Foreign and Commonwealth Office Jeremy Browne paid a courtesy call to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III on Wednesday.

Aquino received Browne at the Music Room of Malacañang Palace where they discussed on how to increase trade and investment between the Philippines and UK.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

They also tackled ways to improve the capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as well as possible assistance from the British government in Mindanao peace efforts.

Browne took the opportunity to extend Britain’s appreciation of the role of Filipino workers, especially nurses and caregivers. In the past six years, more than 20,000 Filipinos were recruited into the UK health service.

“We recognize the massive contribution of the Filipino workers to our society. They are hardworking and caring,” Browne said.

Browne, who was appointed Minister of State of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 14 May this year, will be in the Philippines from July 20 to 22 as part of his South East Asian trip aimed at actively promoting the business relationship between the Philippines and the rest of South East Asia.

This is his first trip to Asia since the assumption of his post.

The visit was an opportune meeting between representatives of two newly-installed governments.

While the Aquino administration was installed on June 30, the new British coalition government was formed last May 12 with David Cameron as Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as his Deputy Prime Minister.

The last UK Foreign Secretary to visit the Philippines was Robin Cook in August 1997.

The UK has always been a major European bilateral partner of the Philippines, which is currently attracting serious interest throughout Europe due to positive developments brought about by the Aquino administration.

The total bilateral trade between the Philippines and the UK in 2008 was recorded at US$791 million, in favor of the Philippines.

The UK is cumulatively the biggest European investor in the country, with British investment amounting to US$18 billion in the past decade.

There are around 200 British companies in the Philippines, ranging from multi-national to small and medium enterprises. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)