As Duterte leaves Myanmar, he renews pitch for war on illegal drugs

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2017 01:03 AM | Updated as of Mar 21 2017 03:47 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte signs the guestbook upon his arrival at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, on Monday for bilateral talks with Myanmar government officials led by President U Htin Kiaw.Toto Lozano, Malacanang Photo

NAY PYI DAW — President Rodrigo Duterte defiantly pushed for his war on drugs while he was in Myanmar amid international criticism over extrajudicial killings in his anti-illegal drugs campaign.

Speaking during the official banquet in his honor at Myanmar’s presidential palace, the president pitched for cooperation in the war against illegal drugs. 

“We should be unrelenting in our fight to dismantle the apparatus of the illegal drug trade. This menace is a challenge that knows no borders and affects all of us in the region," he said.

Duterte also tried to rally support from Myanmar in the fight against extremism. 

“In defense and security, we must work closer to address the threats of terrorism and violent extremism that undermine the economic progress we have so far achieved.”

Duterte, likewise, stressed the importance of inclusive economic growth in the region.

"In trade and investment, we must sustain our growth rates so that everyone, I mean everyone in our societies enjoy the blessings of prosperity."

Duterte pointed out that previous areas of cooperation have been rather fruitful for both sides in the 60 years that the Philippines and Myanmar have had diplomatic relations.

"We have sought and seen remarkable progress and active cooperation in the areas of agriculture, labor and trade and investment. We aim for more."

Duterte also paid tribute to the sectors where cooperation between the two countries have been very frutiful.

"Already, the Philippine businesses are helping fuel growth to investments in key sectors in Myanmar such as pharmaceuticals and food and beverages," he said.

Duterte elaborated on how the two countries can gain from each other. 

"Philippine companies will remain keenly interested in the development potentials of Myanmar, which is among the highest in the region. Myanmar too can use to its full advantage the many opportunities for education and training in the Philippines. My country is an emerging education hub in the region because of competitive academic institutions."

Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw gave his assurance of Myanmar’s readiness to work closely with the Philippines both in bilateral and other regional and international contacts, bilateral cooperation, promote peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world at large.

Duterte also assured Myanmar of the Philippines’ interest in its development. 

"But apart from opportunities in education, in private institutions, my country remains committed to do its part as a development partner of Myanmar in the area of human resource development. Capacity building is an important dimension in our relations and we continue to do so, including training for diplomats."

Duterte also mentioned how the two Asean neighbors could assist each other in times of calamity. 

“Excellency, there is respect and mutual understanding honed by these interactions. This is why in times of calamities, both our sides have been ready to provide assistance. I thank you and the people of Myanmar for the timely assistance, particularly for those who were affected by typhoon Pablo, which hit my island in Mindanao, the earthquake in Bohol, and the typhoon [Haiyan]. Indeed, it is in times of need that you know who are your friends," he said.

"In our own modest way, please note that the Philippines is ready to support Myanmar in its own humanitarian challenges."

Earlier in the day, Duterte presented to State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi the Philippine donation of $300,000 for Myanmar’s humanitarian work in its strife-torn area of Rakhine State.

Htin Kyaw expressed pleasure at the signing of a food security agreement. 

He also sought Duterte’s continued support and encouraging not only public borders but also private sector in driving our endeavors to and expanding the existing bilateral cooperation to the mutual benefit of both peoples.

For Duterte, the friendship of the two countries becomes more special as the ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary.

"We have become [a] stronger association; we have become brothers in our regions. Let us work together to sustain the momentum of growth, security and stability for the ASEAN region. The Philippines counts on Myanmar’s full support during our ASEAN chairmanship," he said.

In return, Htin Kyaw said: "The bonds of friendship between our two countries have been strengthened as we have been working hand in hand in building a better and stronger ASEAN community. As a fellow member of ASEAN, Myanmar will support and fully cooperate with the Philippines’ efforts towards the successful stewardship of ASEAN this year."

"We are also supportive of the six thematic priorities crafted by the Philippines as well as the theme for the chairmanship, 'Partnering for Change, Engaging the World,' " Htin Kyaw said, adding that his country supports the people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN, which is one of the key elements of the ASEAN vision 2025 in building a "rules-based, dynamic and resilient community.” 

Myanmar looks forward to working closely with the Philippines and other member states to accelerate our efforts in the ASEAN community building process and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN in 2017 with innovative and forward-looking initiatives.

The chief executive thanked Myanmar for its warm reception during his visit. Duterte’s introductory visit to Myanmar was capped by an official banquet at the Presidential palace with members of his delegation and officials of the Myanmar government. 

The banquet served watercress tempura, fish cake salad, karen talabaw soup, crispy boneless duck in orange and peach sauce, sweet pork belly curry, river prawn curry, stir fried chaste with dried shrimp, fried shrimp and acacia leaves, balachaung and vegetable, steamed rice, seasonal fruit and steamed banana with evaporated milk. 

The banquet also featured a cultural presentation.

Duterte and his delegation left for Bangkok after the ceremony.