Widodo PH visit boosts Aquino
President Benigno Aquino III on Monday admitted to getting a boost of confidence from his meeting with visiting Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
“My meeting with President Widodo filled me with optimism. I believe that under his presidency, Philippines-Indonesia relations will be propelled to even greater heights,” Mr. Aquino said in a statement after a meeting with Widodo in Malacañang.
He said that in just a few months in office, Widodo, who arrived on Sunday in Manila for a two-day visit, had demonstrated a “strong commitment to inclusive growth, an idea that has always served as my administration’s north star.”
Aquino noted that Indonesia had been “a good friend, a strong partner, and a reliable ally” since the establishment of bilateral ties with the Philippines in 1950, specifically pointing to assistance provided by the Philippines to Indonesia when it was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in 2004 and Jakarta’s aid to Manila in the wake of the devastation by a supertyphoon a year ago.
During the meeting, the Philippines and Indonesia agreed to revive negotiations on their maritime boundary lines and tighten cooperation in securing their common borders, protection of citizens and migrant workers, and cooperation in the economic sector and in education.
In a statement, Widodo welcomed the resumption of the negotiations on the continental shelf border and review of the border agreement and border patrol treaty signed 40 years ago. Last year, the two countries moved closer to an agreement on the areas covered by their respective exclusive economic zones amid growing tensions in the South China Sea between Southeast Asian countries and China.
Mr. Aquino noted the importance of maritime border and security, considering that Indonesia and the Philippines have two of the world’s largest archipelagic states, and both belong to 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.
Mr. Aquino said a highlight of their meeting was the two countries’ “meeting of the minds” on the protection of their 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,” he said.
The two countries also signed the memorandums of understanding on cooperation in combating illicit trafficking and abuse of narcotics, psychotropic substances and their precursors; technical vocational education and training; and, cooperation between the National Defense College of the Philippines and Indonesia’s Lembaga Ketahanan Nasional in education, research and training.
Widodo said his government was interested in offering defense equipment to the Philippines as well as doubling the volume of trade between the two countries. Aquino said there were opportunities for more robust trade “given that Indonesia and the Philippines are two of the fastest-growing economies in the region.”
Other issues tackled in the meeting include defense cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, possible roll-on/roll-off arrangements between Philippine and Indonesian ports, and Indonesia’s continuing role in the country’s peace process.
Widodo invited the President to join the 60th anniversary of the Asia-Africa Conference in Jakarta and Bandung from April 22 to 24 this year and the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2015 in Bali.
Director General Arturo Cacdac Jr. of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and Anang Iskandar of the National Narcotics Board of Indonesia signed the agreement on fighting illegal trafficking.
Cacdac said the accord “manifests in the strongest possible terms the ardent desires of both countries to pool their manpower, expertise, resources and efforts towards the achievement of a common goal.”
Filipino drug mule
Also yesterday, Vice President Jejomar Binay asked for prayers for a Filipino woman facing execution in Indonesia for alleged drug smuggling.
She was arrested in Yogyakarta in April 2010 on her arrival as a tourist on a flight from Malaysia purportedly for carrying 2.6 kilos of heroin. She was eventually convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to death.
Recently, Indonesia’s Supreme Court affirmed the decision. The execution was deferred after Indonesia agreed to a Philippine request for a review of the case.
The Philippines will pursue all legal remedies within Indonesia’s judicial procedures to help the Filipino woman, Binay said in a statement.
“I ask everyone to pray for her, and I appeal once again to our fellow Filipinos to be wary of strangers asking to carry their luggage. Likewise, I strongly urge them to refuse the promise of quick financial gain. It is not worth risking your liberty or life,” Binay said. With reports from Julie M. Aurelio and Christine O. Avendaño
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