PH, Sri Lanka sign 5 agreements

MANILA – The Philippines and Sri Lanka signed five agreements as President Rodrigo R. Duterte officially welcomed Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena at Malacañang Palace on Wednesday.

Duterte said the five-day historic visit of his Sri Lankan counterpart in the Philippines “is held for a very good reason”.

“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.

“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 bilateral meeting, Duterte said they discussed ways to further strengthen the two countries’ engagement in trade, defense, agriculture, and tourism, education, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Duterte said they also recognized the proliferation of illegal drugs is a threat “to our nations and peoples and to the very fabric of [our] growing societies”.

“We acknowledged that poverty reduction and long-term sustainable development are cornerstones of our efforts to improve the lives of our peoples,” he said.

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

The Philippines, he said, 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 their 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,” he said.

For his part, Sirisena assured Sri Lanka’s cooperation in establishing concrete actions to address global and regional issues.

“Along with President Duterte, I and my Government will ensure that these initiatives will be implemented in order to harness the maximum to the people of the both countries,” he said.

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

The five agreements signed in front of the two leaders include:

* Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Defence of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka concerning Defense and Military Education and Training and Exchanges of Defense and Military Delegations

* 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

* 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

* 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

* 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).

Sirisena arrived on Tuesday evening for a five-day state visit, making him the first Sri Lankan head of state to visit the Philippines in 58 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Sri Lankan leader is scheduled to visit the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, Laguna.  Earl Jed Roque / PNA –