The Philippines and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka forged five bilateral agreements during the state visit of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, covering trade, defense, agriculture, and tourism, education, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
In a press statement, President Rodrigo Duterte said he was pleased with the “historic” visit of Sirisena to Manila, expressing optimism the two countries may “explore wider cooperation and greater collaborative action many fields in the international fora.”
“In the nearly six decades of our formal diplomatic relations, you are the very first Sri Lankan President, serving as Head of State and Government, to visit the Philippines. And indeed, your State Visit is held for a very good reason,” Duterte said in his speech.
Duterte said the decades-old relationship of Manila and Colombo have enabled them to share interests and face common challenges.
“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.
“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,” Duterte added.
The President also emphasized that Sri Lanka recognizes that the proliferation of illegal drugs poses a threat to the two countries.
“We acknowledged that poverty reduction and long-term sustainable development are cornerstones of our efforts to improve the lives of our peoples,” he said.
“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,” Duterte added.
Even as they address controversies in their own nations, the President renewed his commitment to adhere to the rule of law, act as a responsible member of the international community, and 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 illegal drugs and human smuggling,” he said.
“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,” Duterte added.
During the state visit, a Memorandum of Understanding concerning Defense and Military Education and Training and Exchanges of Defense and Military Delegations was signed.
A memorandum of understanding on cooperation in agriculture, fisheries, and related fields between the country and Sri Lanka was also signed.
The other memoranda of understanding signed were focused on having academic cooperation in higher education between the country’s Commission on Higher Education and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of City Planning, Water Supply, and Higher Education; an understanding between the Department of Tourism of the Philippines and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs; and an 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.
Following the five-day state visit of the Sri Lankan leader, Sirisena is scheduled to visit the Manila-based Asian Development Bank, the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna, and meet the Sri Lankan community in Manila.
Last Jan. 11, the two nations celebrated the 58th anniversary of their diplomatic relations.