PH, Sri Lanka reaffirm ties; Duterte invited to undertake state visit


President Rodrigo Duterte along with the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena gestures in front of the members of the press during the welcome ceremony at Malacañang Palace on Wednesday. (JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

President Duterte and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena reaffirmed the almost six-decade relations between the countries during their meeting in Malacañang Thursday.

Sirisena arrived in Manila last Tuesday for a five-day state visit on the invitation of the Philippine president.

In their joint statement, President Duterte said he is pleased to welcome Sirisena to the country. Sirisena is the first Sri Lankan president serving as head of state and government to ever visit the Philippines in 58 years.

In his remarks, Duterte recognized the similarities that the two Asian countries share.

“The Philippines and Sri Lanka are developing maritime nations. We face common challenges, we have shared interests, and we are united by our desire to provide greater peace, progress and prosperity for our peoples,” Duterte said Thursday evening.

“These realities and aspirations behoove upon us to work together even more closely to provide renewed impetus and clearer direction for a greatly expanded partnership,” he added.

During their private meeting, Duterte said he and Sirisena resolved to further strengthen the two countries’ engagement in trade, defense, agriculture, tourism, education, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Both leaders also recognized the proliferation of illegal drugs is a threat to the people and the growing societies. They also acknowledged that poverty reduction and long-term sustainable development are important to improve the lives of their citizens.

Duterte and Sirisena also discussed mutual concerns on strengthening cooperation in defense and security.

“We know that the growth we desire can only be achieved with peace, order and stability. This state of affairs is to be desired not only for both our countries but across the region,” Duterte said.

The two presidents also renewed their commitment to adhere to the rule of law, act as responsible members of the international community, and to work together constructively in all relevant regional and international organizations.

According to Duterte, working with a like-minded country like Sri Lanka will ensure that the interests of both countries are protected and upheld.

“The Philippines hopes that with Sri Lanka, we can explore wider cooperation and greater collaborative action [across] many fields in the international fora,” Duterte said.

“The Philippines recognizes [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 our maritime security and addressing the trafficking of illegal drugs and human smuggling,” he added.

5 Agreements Signed

In the Palace ceremony witnessed by the two leaders, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Department of National Defense and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence on “Defense and Military Education and Training and Exchanges of Defense and Military Delegations.”

The MOU provides an initial framework for cooperation in the field of education and training, exchanges of delegations on the basis of reciprocity and mutual benefit.

Also, the two countries forged a memorandum of understanding on agriculture, fisheries and related fields. The accord aims to promote scientific, technical and economic cooperation in agriculture and expand Philippine-Sri Lanka cooperation in fisheries and related fields.

A memorandum of understanding on academic cooperation in higher Education was also signed between the Commission on Higher Education and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of City Planning, Water Supply, and Higher Education. It aims to promote cooperation in higher education and professional training including development of institutional linkages at the undergraduate level.

Another memorandum of understanding was sealed between the Department of Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs of Sri Lanka. The agreement aims to strengthen cooperation on tourism infrastructure development and facilitate two-way travel and people-to-people exchanges.

Also signed was 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). It seeks to promote scientific research linkages between two institutions and arrange for post-graduate training of agricultural research staff.

Philippine Diplomatic Post in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has endorsed the establishment of a Philippine embassy in Sri Lanka as the two nations moved to reinvigorate economic and security cooperation.

“The relationship between Sri Lanka and Philippines is a longstanding friendship,” the visiting Sri Lankan leader said at the start of expanded bilateral meeting with the President and his Cabinet.

“In order to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries, establishing a Philippine embassy in Sri Lanka would be highly instrumental. Therefore, your marking a plot of land for the Philippines’ embassy in Sri Lanka would be — necessary action will be taken expeditiously,” he said.

At present, the Philippines has an honorary consulate in Colombo, Sri Lanka under the supervision of the Philippine Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Duterte invited to visit Sri Lanka

Sirisena thanked Duterte for the opportunity of visiting the Philippines. The Sri Lankan leader, in turn, invited Duterte to undertake a state visit to Sri Lanka to see the fruits of their agreements and further advance them.

“I have extended an invitation to President Duterte to undertake a state visit to Sri Lanka at an early date,” Sirisena said.

“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 added.

In his remarks, Sirisena described his discussions with Duterte as “productive”, saying they are both pleased with the outcome of their bilateral meeting.

“We have agreed on several concrete initiatives to deepen our relations. Along with President Duterte, I and my government will ensure that these initiatives will be implemented in order to harness the maximum through the people of both countries,” the Sri Lankan President said.

Before ending his remarks, Sirisena said that he is pleased with his visit which strengthened the long and trusted friendship between the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

“I carry with me very fond memories of this state visit while further strengthening the friendship with your country,” Sirisena said.

Duterte said he and Sirisena were planting the seeds for rapid growth in bilateral relations.

“The Philippines’ destiny is in Asia. Sri Lanka’s destiny is also in Asia. Asia’s destiny lies among Asians,” he said.

“We are firm in our belief that with our commitment, we will reap a bountiful harvest for the benefit of our peoples,” he added.

Read more: