Duterte, Sri Lanka’s Sirisena recognize threat of illegal drugs

President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he and his Sri Lankan counterpart Maithripala Sirisena recognize the threat posed by illegal drugs in their respective nations.

Speaking at a media conference following his meeting with Sirisena in Malacañang, the President said the Philippines and Sri Lanka have common challenges, shared interests, and are “united by our desire to provide greater peace, progress and prosperity for our peoples.”

“We both recognized that the proliferation of illegal drugs is a threat to our nations and peoples and to the very fabric of [our] growing societies,” Duterte said. “We know that the growth we desire can only be achieved with peace, order and stability.”

Sirisena, for his part, lauded Duterte’s war on drugs even as the campaign has received local and international condemnation for the unexplained killings of thousands of drug suspects.

“The war against crime and drugs carried out by you is an example to the whole world and personal to me. Drug menace is rampant in my country and I feel that we should follow your footsteps to control this hazard,” the Sri Lankan leader said during the state banquet held in his honor.

Sirisena last year announced plans to deploy the military to tackle drugs, saying that the Philippines has been “successful” with that approach.

It is the police, however, that is at the forefront of the Philippines’ drug war, along with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Bureau of Investigation.

Apart from tapping the military, Sirisena had also said they will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences.

Sirisena also invited Duterte to visit Sri Lanka “at an early date.”

“President Duterte, your visit to Sri Lanka will provide an opportunity to evaluate the progress of the initiatives which we have discussed during my visit. I look forward to welcome you and Madam Duterte,” he said. “We will carry forward our discussion and consider further steps, to manifest thoughts into deeds.”

Agreements

The two countries, meanwhile, committed to further strengthen the engagement in trade, defense, agriculture and tourism, education, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Duterte and Sirisena witnessed as representatives from both countries came forward to sign the following:

  • a memorandum of understanding between the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Defense of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka concerning defense and military education and training and exchanges of defense and military delegations;
  • a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in agriculture, fisheries and related fields between the Republic of the Philippines and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka;
  • a memorandum of understanding on academic cooperation in higher education between the Commission on Higher Education and the Ministry of City Planning, Water Supply, and Higher Education of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka;
  • a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Tourism of the Philippines and the Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs of Sri Lanka; and
  • a memorandum of understanding between the University of the Philippines-Los Baños and the Sri Lanka Council for Agriculture Research Policy of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Livestock, Irrigation, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development (MAREALIFARD).

Duterte also said that Sri Lanka can be a partner in advancing migrant workers’ rights and welfare, disaster risk reduction, response and management, as well as in strengthening maritime security and addressing the trafficking of illegal drugs and human smuggling.

“Only when we work together with like-minded nations can we ensure that our interests are protected and upheld,” Duterte said, adding Asia’s destiny “lies among Asians.”

“[It is] in the spirit of mutual respect, sincerity and collaboration that President Sirisena and I are now planting the seeds for rapid growth in our relations. We are firm in our belief that [with] our commitment, we will reap a bountiful harvest for the benefit of our peoples,” he said.

State dinner

The two leaders’ meeting that day ended with a state dinner, at which they feasted on hamon serrano with sweet melon, green pea romaine soup, pan fried lemon risotto cake, duet of lamb cutlet and grouper and tropical baked alaska. They were also served coffee or tea, pralines and macarons.

Among those who attended the state dinner were former President and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, several Cabinet officials and members of the Sri Lankan delegation.

Sirisena is on a five-day visit to the Philippines. He arrived in the country on Tuesday evening. — BM, GMA News

 

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