Philippines, Sri Lanka ink 5 pacts to expand cooperation


President Duterte and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who is in the Philippines for a five-day state visit, review honor guards during a welcome ceremony at Malacañang yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines — The signing of five agreements capped the bilateral meeting at Malacañang between President Duterte and visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday.

Sirisena’s visit was the first by a Sri Lankan president and head of state.

After their meeting, President Duterte and Sirisena witnessed the signing of agreements on defense, agriculture, education, tourism and research after their bilateral meeting in Malacañang.

Signed were memoranda of understanding  on defense and military education and training and exchanges of defense and military delegations; cooperation in agriculture, fisheries and related fields; academic cooperation in higher education, tourism cooperation and agriculture research policy.

“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 in a speech.

“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. In our meetings, we resolved to further strengthen our engagement in trade, defense, agriculture and tourism, education, cultural and people-to-people exchanges,” he added.

Sirisena expressed hope that the agreements would deepen the ties between Manila and Colombo.

“We had very productive discussion this afternoon on priority areas such as defense and security, trade and investment, agriculture, education and higher education, labor, tourism, cultural cooperation, maritime, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, among others. We both are pleased on the outcome of our discussion,” Sirisena said.

“I and my government will ensure that these initiatives will be implemented in order to harness the maximum to the people of both countries,” he added.

Duterte and Sirisena agreed that their countries should expand their cooperation to enable them to cope with realities.

“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. Duterte said he and Sirisena have recognized the proliferation of illegal drugs and their being a serious threat to their nations, peoples and the very fabric of society. They also agreed that poverty reduction and long-term sustainable development are “cornerstones of our efforts to improve the lives of our peoples.”

“We 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,” the President said.

Rule of law

Duterte said the Philippines and Sri Lanka have also renewed their commitment to adhere to the rule of law, to act as responsible members of the international community and to work together constructively in all relevant regional and international organizations.

“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 drugs and human smuggling,” the Philippine leader 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 has also invited Duterte to make a state visit to Sri Lanka at an early date.

He stressed that the Philippines and Sri Lanka share a longstanding relationship, with connections dating back several decades.

The two countries’ close people-to-people contacts may have been nurtured by the visits made by Filipino national hero Dr. Jose Rizal to Sri Lanka in the 19th century, Sirisena  added.

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