PH, Sri Lanka sow seeds of partnership, sign 5 deals

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines and Sri Lanka were “planting seeds for rapid growth in their relations,” after the two countries signed five agreements in Malacañang.

Duterte rolled out the red carpet for Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena, who began a state visit to the Philippines on Wednesday.


STATE VISIT Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena (right) inspects the troops with President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañan Palace. The Sri Lankan leader is on a state visit to the Philippines. PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA

The two oversaw the signing of the five agreements:

– memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Philippine Department of National Defense and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense, concerning defense and military education and training and exchanges of defense and military delegations;

– MoU on cooperation in agriculture, fisheries and related fields;

– MoU on academic cooperation in higher education between the Philippine Commission on Higher Education and the Sri Lankan Ministry of City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education;

– MoU between the Philippine Department of Tourism and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs; and

– MoU 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.

In their joint statement, the two leaders said the Philippines and Sri Lanka wanted to cooperate and promote growth through the agreements.

“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,” Duterte said.

“Only when we work together with like-minded nations can we ensure that our interests are protected and upheld,” he added.

He added that the Philippines was hoping for wider cooperation and greater collaborative action with Sri Lanka.

“[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.

Duterte said he and Sirisena agreed that the proliferation of illegal drugs was a “threat to our nations and peoples and to the very fabric of [our] growing societies.”

Moreover, poverty reduction and long-term sustainable development were viewed by both parties as cornerstones to improve the lives of their citizens.

Both countries are developing maritime nations, which he said would “provide renewed impetus and clearer direction for a greatly expanded partnership.”

“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,” he said.

“I said this before and let me say it again: The Philippines’ destiny is in Asia. Sri Lanka’s destiny is also in Asia. Asia’s destiny lies among Asians,” he added.

Sirisena said he would ensure that “these initiatives will be implemented, in order to harness the maximum to the people of the both countries.”
He also invited Duterte to visit Sri Lanka.

“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. We will carry forward our discussion and consider further steps, to manifest thoughts into deeds,” he said.

Sirisena’s visit to the Philippines was the first visit of a Sri Lankan president in the Philippines, in almost 60 years of formal diplomatic relations.


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