PHL, Singapore reaffirm close relations

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Singaporean President Halimah Yacob reaffirmed their ties Monday as both leaders look forward to a stronger cooperation in the coming years.

President Yacob, the eighth president of Singapore, arrived in the country Sunday for a five-day state visit.

In a joint press statement, President Duterte expressed his interest on deepening defense and security ties with Singapore by strengthening the defense dialogues and training exchanges between the two countries’ military and special forces.

“We talked about deepening our cooperation in defense and security, which includes strengthening defense dialogues and training exchanges between the military and special forces,” President Duterte said on his bilateral discussion with the visiting Singaporean president.

President Yacob’s visit is an opportune time for the two countries to take stock of the great strides in their strong partnership and dynamic cooperation as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, the Philippine leader said.

“Fifty years ago, in May 1969, the Philippines and Singapore established formal diplomatic relations determined to fully explore the promise and infinite possibilities of amity and cooperation,” the President said.

“President Yacob and I committed to further intensify trade and investment links, mindful of the goals we have set for ourselves under the Philippines-Singapore Action Plan or PSAP,” he added.

He rallied for President Yacob’s support to encourage the participation of Singapore in the country’s priority investment areas and to advance collaboration between the two countries in agriculture, education and training, science and technology, tourism and cultural exchanges.

“Singapore is our second highest source of investments in 2018, committing a total of P21.18 billion, or 11.8 percent of our total foreign pledges. Singapore is also our seventh largest trading partner with two-way trade at US$10.49 billion,” he noted.

At the same time, the President shared with President Yacob the recent gains in peace and development in Mindanao, particularly the progress in establishing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“We discussed ways by which our cooperation could help contribute in bringing just and lasting peace and meaningful progress and development in Mindanao – one of the greatest and most crucial undertakings that our nation has embarked upon,” he reported.

In her statement, President Yacob described the economic ties between the two countries as “strong and robust,” adding she and President Duterte agreed to work together.

There is also room to further boost trade and investment flows for the Philippines and Singapore. “We hope to make progress on updating the Singapore-Philippines avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement and the expansion of the Bilateral Air Transport Agreement, which will increase connectivity and create more opportunities for collaboration and growth,” she said in her statement.

The 14th Philippines-Singapore Business Council Meeting, to be held Tuesday, is another valuable platform for business leaders from both sides to connect, exchange ideas, and strengthen economic links, she noted.

Singapore and the Philippines also enjoy close people-to-people ties, she stressed, adding there are more than 200,000 Filipinos living, working, and studying in Singapore. She told President Duterte that her country deeply appreciates the contributions of the Filipino community to Singapore’s society and economy. PND