FORMER President now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assured both President Rodrigo Duterte and Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena that the House will cooperate fully on initiatives to enhance the relations of the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
On Thursday Arroyo paid a courtesy call on President Maithripala, on the third day of his state visit to the Philippines.
Speaker Arroyo led the Philippine delegation composed of Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Baguio City Rep. Mark Go; Manila Rep. Cristal Bagatsing; Batangas Rep. Mario Vittorio Mariño; Senator Cynthia Villar, Philippine Ambassador to Sri Lanka Vivencio Badillo, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre.
Speaker Arroyo welcomed President Maithripala to the country and noted the historic nature of the visit, which is the first time for a Sri Lankan president in the 58 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
The Speaker also discussed the significant growth of Philippine and Sri Lankan relations in the last few years.
In terms of trade, the Philippines exports food products, activated carbon, polyethylene, coconut oil and sanitary articles to Sri Lanka while Sri Lanka exports postage, wheat and flour, garments, and table and kitchenware to the Philippines.
Speaker Arroyo noted that although trade is small, it has been growing steadily at an annual rate of nine percent a year. She hoped that with the shared commitment of the two countries, this growth can be sustained and even improved.
“So we welcome and support the conduct of inbound missions by Sri Lankan businessmen to the Philippines. Not only trade but also investments, which are very important for long-term development and poverty reduction. Our two countries certainly could benefit from increased FDIs (foreign direct investments) on both sides,” Arroyo said.
Speaker Arroyo noted that police cooperation as well as a memorandum of understanding on defense and military education and training signed by President Maithripala earlier in his visit will help both countries in the fight against illegal drugs.
She also mentioned the great strides in the relations of Sri Lanka and the Philippines in terms of agriculture, tourism, education, and culture, and people-to-people exchanges.
“So there are so many areas for friendship between our two countries and your visit provides an impetus to develop those areas,” she said.
Meanwhile, President Maithripala extended his best wishes to the Philippines for its rapid economic growth, congratulating the country’s leaders for its hard work to elevate the level of development nationwide.
President Maithripala further observed that agriculture plays a key role in Sri Lanka-Philippine relations.
“The main feature that binds Sri Lanka and Philippines is that both countries have given priority to the development of agriculture… I feel that Sri Lanka and the Philippines, our two countries, face similar kind of challenges,” he said.
He added that Sri Lanka and the Philippines have similar social problems, especially those revolving around the trade and use of illegal drugs. As such, he commended the initiatives of the Philippines in addressing this problem.