Aquino, Jokowi sign agreement on illegal drug-trafficking

Natashya Gutierrez

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Aquino, Jokowi sign agreement on illegal drug-trafficking
President Benigno Aquino III and Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo sign 4 agreements during the latter's first state visit to the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – President Benigno Aquino III welcomed Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to Malacañang – a day after his arrival for his first state visit to the Philippines – where they signed 4 agreements including one to combat illegal drug-trafficking.

On Monday, February 9, Aquino and Jokowi delivered joint press statements where they announced the signing of 4 agreements: 

  • Joint Declaration between the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Indonesia on the Protection of Migrants and Migrant Workers
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Cooperation in the Field of Technical Vocational Education and Training between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of Indonesia
  • MOU on Cooperation in Education, Research and Training between the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) and the Lembaga Ketahanan Nasional of the Republic of Indonesia
  • MOU between the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and Indonesia’s Badan Narkotika Nasional (BNN) on Cooperation in Combating Illicit Trafficking and Abuse of Narcotics, Psychotropic Substances and their Precursors 

The MOU on illicit trafficking comes as the Philippines formally requests a judicial review of a case involving a Filipino drug courier in Indonesia’s death row – although no specific case was mentioned.

According to the document, the MOU “aims to promote cooperation between the two countries to combat illicit trafficking in narcotics, psychotropic substances and their precursors.” Under the MOU, “the Philippines and Indonesia will establish and maintain channels of communication between their agencies to facilitate the rapid and timely exchange of relevant information.”

“With regards to another political, legal and also security issues, I am happy that the cooperation to combat the illicit drug trafficking has also been signed today,” Jokowi said in his speech.

The only Filipino on Indonesia’s death row is Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, 30, who was sentenced to death by the Sleman District Court in October 2010 for attempting to smuggle 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia from Malaysia in April 2010.

Veloso, who comes from a poor rural family in the Philippines, was reportedly acting as a courier for an international syndicate when she was arrested on April 25, 2010, after arriving at Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto airport via an AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur.

Her clemency request was among the 16 rejected by Jokowi on January 9.

There are reports that the next batch of executions could take place this month, but Indonesia doesn’t announce the actual date and informs the convicts only 3 days before the date.

Indonesia has repeatedly justified the executions by stating that the country is in a state of emergency with regard to drug abuse, as there are about 4.5 million drug users in the country, 1.2 million of whom are beyond rehabilitation. There was no mention of Veloso at the press conference.

Migrant workers

Another major issue discussed in the meetings was migrant and migrant workers’ protection.

“One of the highlights of today’s discussion was our countries’ meeting of the minds as regards the protection of migrants and migrant workers. Indonesia and the Philippines both have a significant number of nationals overseas, and it is in our mutual interest to work closely with one another to protect our migrants wherever they may be in the world,” Aquino said.

The joint declaration on migrants and migrant workers “aims to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the promotion and protection of the rights of migrants and migrant workers through such mechanisms as cooperation on the matter between their respective diplomatic and consular nations.”

The two other agreements meanwhile, focus on increased cooperation in training.

Training cooperation

The MOU on technical vocational education and training will allow “the conduct of joint research, benchmarking and comparability of competency standards and technical qualifications” specifically in priority areas like “the recognition of education and training credentials and the hosting of symposia, conferences and workshops, among others.”

The other MOU refers to cooperation on the “field of defense and security studies.”

“Under the MOU, both sides will cooperate on promotion of academic networking and exchanges, reciprocal access to libraries, exchanges of academic staff, teachers and researchers as well as of public literature,” it said.


Both agreements hope to improve people-to-people contact.

“The cooperation is imminent in people-to-people contact, I wish to convey to you that our cooperation in  education sector, the sister school program initiative and also the exchange of students and teachers who will be beneficial for people-to-people contact,” Jokowi said of the agreements.

Other issues


The two leaders also discussed other issues of mutual interest, including maritime cooperation, border issues, and trade and investment, among other topics.

Aquino said it was important to discuss maritime cooperation since “Indonesia and the Philippines are two of the world’s largest archipelagic states, and are among the top five countries with the longest coastlines.”

“We are both parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and of the Coral Triangle Initiative. Therefore, closer cooperation and coordination between our two countries in maritime affairs is vital,” he said.

Aquino said “both sides agreed to coordinate more closely on a number of maritime issues,” including improving “our approach to maritime boundary delimitation, border cooperation, and cooperation in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing or IUUF under the scope of the Philippines-Indonesia Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation or JCBC.”

As for economic cooperation, Jokowi expressed hope to double trade volume between the two countries by 2016 and encouraged “investors in the Philippines to Indonesia in the maritime sector and fisheries sector.”

Aquino said his meeting with Jokowi “filled me with optimism.”

“I believe that, under his presidency, Philippines-Indonesia relations will be propelled to even greater heights,” he said.

‘New chapter’

Malacañang called Jokowi’s visit the beginning of a “new chapter in our partnership.”

“Since the formal establishment of ties between our countries, our bilateral relationship with Indonesia has continued to grow stronger, founded on shared principles and commitments relating to democracy, inclusive prosperity, and the pursuit of peace,” Malacañang said in a statement on Monday.

“With this first state visit of President Widodo to the Philippines, we begin a new chapter in our partnership, even as we continue our dialogue on fundamental issues geared toward the betterment of our peoples.”

In return, Jokowi invited Aquino to attend the commemoration of the 60thanniversary of the Asia-Africa Conference in Jakarta and Bandung in April, and the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2015 that will be held in Bali.

PAYING RESPECTS. Indonesian President Joko Widodo (L) attends a wreath laying ceremony at the monument of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal at the Luneta Park, in Manila, Philippines, 09 February 2015. Francis Malasig/EPA

Earlier in the day, Jokowi laid a wreath at the Rizal Park in Manila as is custom for state visitors, and met with the Indonesian community in the Philippines at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.

He was accorded a welcome ceremony upon his arrival at the Palace grounds at a little past 4 pm, before he was ushered inside where he signed the guest book.

Jokowi, wearing a traditional shirt, was accompanied by his wife, Iriana.

Aquino and Jokowi engaged in an expanded bilateral meeting, before signing agreements between the two nations, and delivering joint press statements. 

Aquino is scheduled to host a state dinner for Jokowi and his wife, before the couple departs for Villamor Airbase for their 8:45 pm flight back to Indonesia. Jokowi’s Manila visit is the last leg of a 3-country tour that saw him and the first lady visit Malaysia and Brunei before heading to Manila. (READ: Jokowi in Malaysia on first bilateral trip amid racist ad rowwith reports from Jet Damazo-Santos/

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.