PH, Sri Lanka sign 5 agreements
MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday vowed to strengthen ties between the Philippines and Sri Lanka as the island nation’s leader Maithripala Sirisena made a historic visit to the country.
Sirisena is on a five-day state visit to the Philippines, the first ever to be made by a sitting Sri Lankan leader.
Duterte said the Philippines and Sri Lanka’s status as both developing maritime nations makes it important for the two countries to enhance relations.
“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,” Duterte said in a joint press statement in Malacañang.
“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.”
To end his statement, Duterte said: “The Philippines’ destiny is in Asia. Sri Lanka’s destiny is also in Asia. Asia’s destiny lies among Asians.”
“[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.
Sirisena, for his part, thanked Duterte for sealing five agreements with his country, among them pacts on agriculture and education cooperation and military exchanges.
“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 [benefit for] people of both countries,” Sirisena said.
Sirisena also invited Duterte to make a state visit to Sri Lanka, saying this would “provide an opportunity to evaluate the progress of the initiatives which we have discussed during my visit.”
“This visit has strengthened the long and trusted friendship between our two countries,” he said.
“We have taken steps to reinvigorate our relations which our two countries and people so richly deserve.”
The two countries signed the following agreements during the meeting of the two leaders:
1. Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Defense of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka concerning Defense and Military Education and Training and Exchanges of Defense and Military Delegations
2. Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Agriculture, Fisheries and Related Fields between the Republic of the Philippines and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
3. Memorandum of Understanding on Academic Cooperation in Higher Education between the Commission on Higher Education and the Ministry of City Planning, Water Supply, and Higher Education of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
4. Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Tourism of the Philippines and the Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs of Sri Lanka
5. Memorandum of 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
Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, has a population of 21.4 million people, according to the World Bank, or about a fifth of the Philippines’ population.
Still recovering from decades of civil war rooted in ethnic strife, Sri Lanka's economy is in transition from a rural-based to a more urbanized economy, growing its manufacturing and services sectors, the World Bank said.
In 2018, the International Monetary Fund pegged Sri Lanka’s GDP at $92 billion, roughly a third of the Philippines’ $331 billion. Its economic growth rate has remained below 4 percent.