MALACAÑAN — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday, January 16, agreed to implement concrete actions aimed at enhancing the ties between the two nations.
“In our meetings, we resolved to further strengthen our engagement in trade, defense, agriculture and tourism, education, cultural and people-to-people exchanges,” President Duterte said during the joint press statement following their expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañan Palace.
He said both the Philippines and Sri Lanka are developing maritime nations with common challenges and shared interests. “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 further said.
According to Sri Lankan President Sirisena, priority areas were tackled during their meeting such as defense and security, trade and investment, agriculture, education and higher education, labor, tourism, cultural cooperation, maritime, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief among others.
“We both are pleased on the outcome of our discussion,” Sirisena said during the joint press statement. He also described their meeting as “very productive.”
“We have agreed on several concrete initiatives to deepen our relations. 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 both countries,” he added.
The Sri Lankan President commended President Duterte and the Philippine government for the successful Chairmanship during ASEAN’s 50th Anniversary in 2017.
He also expressed hopes that the Philippines will support the inclusion of Sri Lanka as a Sectoral Dialogue Partner in the ASEAN.
Sirisena also extended an invitation to President Duterte to undertake a State Visit to their island nation.
“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 welcoming you and Madam Duterte,” he said.
“We will carry forward our discussion and consider further steps to manifest thoughts into deeds,” he further said.
Sirisena, the first Sri Lankan President serving as a Head of State and Government to visit the Philippines, stated that his visit has strengthened the long and trusted friendship between the two countries.
“We have taken steps to reinvigorate our relations which our two countries and people so richly deserve,” he said.
During the joint press statement, President Duterte noted that they both recognized that the proliferation of illegal drugs is a threat to both nations and peoples and to the “very fabric of [our] growing societies.”
He further noted that they acknowledged that poverty reduction and long-term sustainable development are cornerstones of efforts to improve the lives of our peoples.
The two leaders 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. This state of affairs is to be desired not only for both our countries but across the region,” Duterte said.
At the same time, the Philippines and Sri Lanka 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,” he said.
According to President Duterte, 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.
“[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.
During the two leaders’ expanded bilateral meeting, Sirisena mentioned that establishing a Philippine embassy in Sri Lanka “would be highly instrumental.”
“Therefore, your marking a plot of land for the Philippines’ embassy in Sri Lanka would be — necessary action will be taken expeditiously, Your Excellency,” Sirisena said in his opening remarks.
After their meeting, President Duterte and President Sirisena witnessed the signing and exchange of five agreements on defense, agriculture, education, and tourism.