MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte expressed confidence that the relationship between the Philippines and Singapore will be elevated to greater heights, as he embarked on his state visit in the city-state.
“I say tonight we can and should look forward to a future of greater mutually beneficial collaboration,” President Duterte said in his toast remarks during the state banquet hosted by Singapore President Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam on Thursday, December 15, at the Banquet Hall of Istana, the official residence and office of the President of Singapore.
President Duterte noted that his two-day state visit to Singapore seeks to “renew and reaffirm” the friendship and cooperation between the Philippines and Singapore.
“Tonight, I say we are drawn even closer as partners and friends. We have reason to celebrate,” Duterte said, noting that ties between the two nations were formally established close to fifty years ago.
“We work closely on political issues, pursuing principled positions on the rule of law in the peaceful settlement of disputes,” he added.
In addition, he said the two nations both reaffirm and respect the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states.
The Philippines and Singapore, according to President Duterte, are committed to do their share in helping make the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region “safe and secure” from traditional and emerging transnational threats.
In terms of improving growth, President Duterte said two-way trade and commerce will be further intensified. He added that opportunities are being broadened so both countries can attract increased investments.
President Duterte also noted that the presence of 180,000 Filipinos in the city-state is reflective of the “enduring friendship” between the two nations. Employed as professionals, highly skilled workers and in the domestic services sector, they have contributed significantly to Singapore’s economy.
The President also expressed gratitude for the “very warm welcome and exceptional hospitality” Singapore’s government and its people had accorded to him and his delegation.
“As I conclude my state visit, I am humbled by the show of trust, confidence, and amity,” he said.
For his part, Dr. Tan said the two countries enjoy a robust friendship “anchored in a shared vision of peace, harmony, and prosperity for our countries and the region.”
He said that Singapore companies are keen to invest in the Philippines. It is the fourth largest trading partner of the Philippines with total trade amounting to 4.373 billion US dollars in the first half of 2016.
According to Dr. Tan, SIA Engineering and Singtel are Singaporean companies that can contribute to the development of quality infrastructure, urban planning, and information and communications technology services in the Philippines.
He also noted that IE (International Enterprise) Singapore assisted a number of Singaporean companies in the renewable energy and consumerism sectors secure their first projects in the Philippines.
“In line with the current administration’s priorities for inclusive economic development, IE Singapore is also encouraging Singaporean companies to venture beyond Metro Manila, into cities such as Davao and Cebu,” he said.
According to Dr. Tan, IE Singapore is devoting more resources to step up its presence in the Philippines next year “to better serve the growing interest of Singapore companies in the Philippine market.”
Before the state banquet, President Duterte was given a welcome ceremony at the Istana where he was welcomed by the Singaporean President.
The ceremony was followed by the Philippine leader’s separate meetings with Dr. Tan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
“We talked a lot about areas of mutual cooperation, particularly in the fight against terrorism and the fight against illegal drugs,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said. He added that the President’s meetings with the two leaders were “very engaging.” PNA-northboundasia.com