MANILA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos left the Philippines on Thursday morning after attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting.
Santos was the only non-APEC leader invited by President Benigno Aquino III to the annual gathering. He left the Philippines with wife María Clemencia Rodríguez Múnera as APEC leaders prepare for their retreat at the Philippine International Convention Center.
Colombia applied for APEC membership in 1995, but this has yet to be approved.
During his visit to the Philippines, Santos had a bilateral meeting with Aquino.
Aquino congratulated Santos on the significant developments in Colombia's peace process and negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and expressed good wishes on the scheduled signing of final agreement in 2016.
He also offered Philippine assistance and advice in Colombia's own peace process if needed, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.
The two leaders also noted their countries' common concerns on combating illegal drug trade and drug abuse. Like Colombia, the Philippines is taking steps to improve people's quality of life by bringing social opportunities closer to them, thus channeling their energies to legitimate sources of income.
Aquino shared the Philippines' experiences on programs such as the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program and PhilHealth universal health care to address poverty issues that previously bred insurgency, noting common challenges faced by both countries.
In turn, Santos offered Colombia's knowledge and experience in anti-insurgency and anti-illegal drugs campaign, citing decades-long fight in these two fronts.
Santos said his country is looking up to the Philippines as a vital resource in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change. Aquino said that the Philippines will share best practices in building back better and establishing disaster resiliency.