MANILA - President Aquino welcomed Timor Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and his delegation at Malacañang where both leaders reaffirmed the ties of the two countries.
Aquino thanked Gusmao for Timor Leste's US$ 750,000 donation for the victims of typhoon Pablo, describing Timor Leste as a "reliable partner in times of disaster."
Aquino reaffirmed the Philippines' support for Timor Leste's bid to become a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for which Gusmao expressed his thanks.
He said the two countries will continue to hold military consultations and exchange intelligence that is "vital to maintaining peace and security in our part of the world."
"This is in keeping with the joint declaration on military cooperation which was signed by both our governments last year," Aquino said.
The two leaders witnessed the signing of three memoranda of agreement on policy consultation, public works, and teacher training.
Aquino noted that trade between the two countries from 2011 to 2012 "almost tripled."
"This is a positive sign of our robust partnership and with the signing of the agreements on infrastructure development and capacity building, amongst others, we open more doors of opportunity for both our peoples, empowering them to take part in… building a more equitable, more progressive southeast Asia," Aquino said.
Gusmao's visit is part of his tour of ASEAN countries to reaffirm Timor Leste's bilateral and official ties with nations of the region.
WHEN GUSMAO MET CORY
During the official luncheon at the Palace, Aquino expressed the Philippines' readiness to work with East Timor in working towards mutual progress, regional dialogue and positive engagement.
Aquino said the Philippines has progressed much since the last time Gusmao visited the country in 2000 when he also met former President Corazon Aquino.
"When you visited the Philippines 13 years ago, you had the opportunity to meet my mother who like you valued and fought for the promise of freedom. Back then, my mother shared with you the many difficulties my people experienced in order to restore democracy and justice in our country," Aquino said before offering a toast.
"Your visit came at an important time for both our nations. The Philippines was at a crucial juncture in its democratic history while Timor Leste was treading the path to self-governance and independence. Then, you saw a country whose growth was stunted by years of misgovernance and neglect. Today, you return to a Philippines that has undergone meaningful transformation-transformation that has empowered our countrymen to take part in building a more just, a more progressive society."
Served at the luncheon was Maine lobster salad with pickled carrot and dill citrus dressing; scallop with butternut squash, caponata and rasin jus; US beef tenderloin with white truffle polenta, baked mushroom dome, and caramelized onion jus; and for the dessert: chocolate sphere of berries, mascarpone, and warm chocolate sauce.
Among the guests at the luncheon were House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, and presidential sister Viel Dee.