PH, India agree to intensity defense, security cooperation

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DAVAO CITY — The Philippines and India agreed to work together on defense and security, particularly with the rise of violent extremism and the fast-changing geopolitical landscape in the Asia Pacific region.

In a joint press statement with visiting Indian President Ram Nath Kovind Friday, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte welcomed the role of India in the country’s defense capability upgrade program against the backdrop of their growing security cooperation.

President Ram Nath Kovind arrived in the country on October 16 for a five-day state visit.

“As countries strategically located in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, we affirmed our shared interest to protect our maritime commons and advance the rule of law in our maritime domains,” the President said.

“We agreed also to continue working together to fight terrorism and violent extremism and other transboundary threats.”

The President also voiced his commitment to further build a more dynamic and forward-looking relationship between the Philippines and India, noting their ties allow the Philippines to seize tremendous opportunities vital for its development.

This close cooperation, he said, also enables the two countries to face challenges to their hard-won progress – jointly and effectively.

As the two countries commemorate 70 years of diplomatic relations this year, he said, “These past seven decades are more than just the passage of time. They signify the stability of true friendship availing itself and between two major Asian democracies.”

“They represent the steady maturing of ties that has helped transform our nations into the fast-growing economies of what they are today. More importantly, our celebrations in this year point us to the future – to the infinite possibilities of evolving relations.”

The Philippine leader also welcomed the steady rise of the country’s trade and investment exchanges with India, noting however that the two countries need to further strengthen their economic ties.

Both countries are at the forefront of the global IT and BPO industries and their shared distinction encourages them to cooperate further to complement each other’s strengths, he stressed.

Highlighting people-to-people ties, President Duterte said that for centuries, linkages between Indians and Filipinos have remained the strong knot that ties the two countries together.

“Whether in the realm of business or socio-cultural sphere, the Indian community in the Philippines has been instrumental in fostering mutual respect and understanding between our peoples,” he added.

“We agreed that these people-to-people ties must not only be sustained but also strengthened by way of increased two-way tourism, business, and academic exchanges.”

At the same time, the President recognized the efforts of Mahaveer Philippines Foundation for its humanitarian initiatives that have transformed the lives of many people, including the heroes in Marawi City. 

He thanked India for its efforts to rebuild Marawi City without precondition or delay.

Echoing President Duterte’s concerns regarding violent extremism, President Kovind said in a separate statement that both countries have been victims of terrorism.

“As you know, India has been the target of cross-border terrorism for decades. They committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” he said.

Also, as two vibrant democracies that believe in a rules-based international order, respect for international law, and sovereign equality of nations, the Philippines and India are natural partners in the pursuit of their respective national development and security objectives, India’s president said.

There is immense potential to further deepen the Philippines-India economic ties, according to President Kovind. The Philippines, he said, is emerging as an important focus country for India’s corporate sector.

Accompanied by a strong Indian business delegation, the Indian leader said his visit could pave the way for Indian and Filipino companies to collaborate in digital industries, innovation and start-ups, health and pharmaceutical and agricultural development.

“We also invite companies from Philippines to invest in India’s transformative growth and development. While cooperation between governments is important, it is the people-to-people relations that form the bedrock of sound bilateral relations,” he said.

There is also potential for tourism, he said, noting India is one of the fastest growing sources of tourists for the Philippines.

Four agreements signed

Four agreements were signed on Friday during the visit of the President Kovind. The agreements were:

·      Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Tourism of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Tourism of the Government of the Republic of India on Tourism Cooperation

The MOU aims to enhance cooperation in the tourism and hospitality sector by introducing various areas and modalities for tourism cooperation between the Philippines and India.

·      Program of Cooperation in the fields of Science and Technology for 2019-2022 between the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of the Republic of India

·      Memorandum of Understanding between the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) of the Republic of the Philippines and the Indian Navy of the Republic of India on Sharing of White Shipping Information

The MOU aims to enhance maritime security through the sharing of information on non-military and non-government shipping vessels between the Philippines and India

·      Cultural Exchange Program between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of India for 2019-2023

President Duterte described his discussion with the Indian president as fruitful and comprehensive, adding it will strengthen “the foundations of our long-standing relations with India.”

“With the signing of bilateral agreements, we have likewise widened the path towards enhancement of our engagement in maritime security, science and technology, tourism, and cultural cooperation,” the President said.

“We hope to look back on this day as a milestone in our relations – the day when we set out to turn promise into reality, and potential into concrete benefits that bring the greatest positive impact on the lives of our peoples.”

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