Duterte, Sri Lanka President Sirisena boost defense, agri ties during visit

MANILA, Philippines – Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena’s state visit to the Philippines yielded agreements on defense, agriculture, and education cooperation for the two countries.

Sirisena and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the signing of 5 memoranda of understanding on Wednesday, January 16, in Malacañang Palace.

Sirisena, who is in the Philippines from January 15 to 19, is the 6th foreign leader  to visit the country under the Duterte administration, excluding those who flew over to attend international fora.

Duterte had earlier hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

The 5 MOUs signed during the Sri Lankan leader's visit are the following:

DEALS. Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sign the Memorandum of Understanding concerning Defense and Military Education as well as Training and Exchanges of Defense and Military Delegations.

Malacau00f1ang photo

‘Planting the seeds’ 

Sirisena and Duterte also held an expanded bilateral meeting together with their Cabinet members. 

In their joint statement, Duterte said he and Sirisena talked about strengthening cooperation in defense and his pet advocacy, fighting illegal drugs.

With the Philippines and Sri Lanka still developing nations, Duterte said they had also discussed the challenge of lifting their people from poverty.

“We acknowledged that poverty reduction and long-term sustainable development are cornerstones of our efforts to improve the lives of our peoples,” said Duterte. 

Sirisena, meanwhile, welcomed the plan of the Philippines to put up an embassy in Sri Lanka.

“Establishing a Philippine embassy in Sri Lanka would be highly instrumental. Therefore, your marking a plot of land for the Philippines’ embassy in Sri Lanka would be – necessary action will be taken expeditiously,” he said at the start of the bilateral meeting. 

Sirisena also recalled that Philippine national hero Jose Rizal had visited his country thrice, a detail Duterte also touched on during his remarks at the state banquet held in the foreign leader’s honor.

“President Sirisena, when our national hero Dr Jose Rizal, visited your nation, he described Colombo as beautiful, smart, and elegant. Tonight, I hope that you see Manila – and indeed the entire Philippines – in that light,” said Duterte.

Sri Lanka and the Philippines have enjoyed almost 60 years of diplomatic ties, having established them in 1961.

After Sirisena’s visit to Malacañang, he is set to visit the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños and the Asian Development Bank.

He will also meet with the Sri Lanka community in Manila. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.