PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is flying to Burma today for a two-day official visit where he is expected to witness the signing of an agreement on food security with Myanmar.
Duterte is expected to meet with the local Filipino community in the capital Naypyidaw.
“President Duterte’s visit to Myanmar is significant in many respects. In particular, the discussion will include talks on improving trade and investment relations,” said Alex Chua, Philippine ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
Chua said the President was also scheduled to meet Myanmar’s first civilian president, U Htin Kyaw, to discuss the strengthening of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Myanmar.
He said the official visit, which will be from March 19 to 20, will coincide with the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-Myanmar bilateral relations.
“Commemorative activities have been held beginning last year and the President’s visit to Myanmar this year is the culmination of the celebration of this milestone in our friendly relations with Myanmar,” he said.
During the visit, a memorandum of understanding on food security and agricultural cooperation will be signed by the two governments.
Aside from meeting President U Htin Kyaw, Duterte will also meet with Myanmar’s leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Chua said Filipinos in Myanmar were anticipating the arrival of the President. Duterte won the overseas balloting in Myanmar, getting over 56 percent of the vote.
Duterte’s visit to Myanmar is part of the traditional introductory visits to neighbors in Southeast Asia by newly elected leaders. It will be followed by a visit to Thailand on March 20 to 22.
With the Philippines as chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) this year, Duterte’s Myanmar visit also “symbolizes the Philippines’ commitment to the shared aspiration and values of the coalition,” Chua said.
The Philippines is hosting the Asean meetings this year as the regional bloc celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Since the establishment of bilateral relations 60 years ago in 1956, the economic relations between the Philippines and Myanmar have grown significantly, Chua said.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the Philippines’ top exports to Myanmar are medicaments for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, while the country’s major imports from Myanmar are agricultural products.
In 2016, the Philippines ranked as Myanmar’s 16th biggest investor. Philippine companies that have invested in Myanmar include United Pharma, Liwayway Corp., Asia Brewery, Splash Corp., Manila Water, ComWorks and Universal Robina Corp.
Last year saw the entry in Myanmar of Phinma Education, along with leading clothing brands Bench and Penshoppe.