Duterte, Thailand's Prayut affirm defense, economic cooperation
BANGKOK, Thailand – During President Rodrigo Duterte's Bangkok visit, the Philippines and Thailand vowed to strengthen cooperation in combating security threats and in enlivening two-way trade and investment.
On Tuesday, March 21, Duterte and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha affirmed the joint committee on military cooperation between their two countries as a mechanism to address their mutual concerns on security issues like terrorism and illegal drugs.
"We stress the importance of our defense cooperation to achieve these goals and look forward to the inaugural joint committee on military cooperation this year," said Duterte in a statement he delivered beside Prayut.
The two gave their statements in Thailand's Government House after a bilateral meeting.
"We stress the need to address traditional and emerging threats to our collective security and stability. This includes transnational crimes such as terrorism and violent extremism, piracy at sea, as well as the trafficking of persons and illicit drugs," said Duterte.
Thailand, like the Philippines, continues to wrestle with the spread of illegal drugs. The Southeast Asian nation is a major transshipment point of drugs since it shares borders with countries like Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia.
The most consumed drug here is methamphetamine, called Yaa Baa or "crazy drug." In fact, in 2003, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra waged a war on drugs similar to Duterte's in the Philippines that led to over 2,800 deaths.
"We vow to do more, our utmost, to strengthen collaboration in bilateral and regional and international levels to effectively address the scourges and menace to our societies," said Duterte on Tuesday.
On economic cooperation, Duterte and Prayut witnessed the signing of tourism, agriculture, and science and technology agreements expected to boost economic growth in their countries.
The Philippine President hopes that his administration's thrusts will attract more investments from Thailand.
"Economic reforms are being instituted in the Philippines. With our emphasis on combating corruption, eradicating criminality, and dismantling the illegal drug trade apparatus, we are hopeful of more investments coming from Thailand," he said.
As of 2016, trade between the two countries was worth $9 billion. Duterte and Prayut believe this figure can be exceeded with strengthened cooperation.
The Philippines and Thailand, countries that both rely on the agricultural sector, are expected to exchange "best practices" in irrigation, livestock and fisheries, and soil and water conservation after Duterte's visit.
In his statement, Duterte also urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to complete the framework on the South China Sea Code of Conduct between the regional bloc and China.
The Philippines, as this year's ASEAN chairman, is prioritizing the completion of the framework. – Rappler.com