THE Philippines and Indonesia on Friday agreed to cooperate to stamp out terrorism and illegal drugs, problems shared by the neighboring countries, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday as he met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
The Indonesian leader got a red-carpet welcome from Duterte and Cabinet officials at Malacañang’s Kalayaan grounds on Friday afternoon. Widodo is in the country for the second time for a state visit and to attend the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Manila.
After the welcome ceremony, Duterte and Widodo held a “restricted meeting” and a bilateral meeting at the Palace’s Aguinaldo State Dining Room.
In their joint statement, the two leaders vowed to collectively address terrorism and extremism, piracy in the high seas, maritime security and law enforcement as well as the dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“Throughout close to seven decades, we have seen vast transformation in our countries and in our region. It is in this context of opportunities and challenges in our modern era that I met President Widodo to chart a path of collaboration to achieve greater peace, progress and prosperity. Our productive discussions have been forward-looking and sought constructive ways to address the challenges we face,” Duterte said.
“We recognized the need to address both traditional and emerging threats and expressed readiness to step up cooperation against terrorism, violent extremism, piracy at sea and transnational crimes, including the trade of illicit drugs,” he added.
Duterte said he and Widodo also reaffirmed the importance of both countries’ bilateral relations and “signified our resolve to sustain the momentum of all our engagements, particularly in defense and security, trade and investments, agriculture, and sub-regional development connectivity.”
“We agreed to use the bilateral mechanisms and trilateral arrangements to help secure the vital waters that connect us,” the President said.
“Together with Indonesia and our Asean brothers and sisters, we will work to strengthen and advance the interests of the Association. We reaffirmed the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes and the supremacy of law and the primacy of rules in the behavior of responsible states,” he added.
BIMP-EAGA, Ro-Ro route
Widodo, for his part, thanked the Philippines, which he described as “a good friend of Indonesia and one of our important partners.”
“President Duterte and I agreed to elevate cooperation in various areas: politics and security, economy, maritime, and people-to-people contact,” Widodo said.
On investment, he said Indonesia would continue encouraging its companies to participate in the retail sector and infrastructure development, particularly roads and railways, in the Philippines.
On maritime issues, Widodo said he and Duterte agreed to wrap up agreements delineating the two countries’ exclusive economic zones and continental shelves.
On people-to-people contact, the two agreed to strengthen cooperation on the protection of both countries’ citizens as well as Asean migrant workers.
The leaders also emphasized their commitment to the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area initiative and lauded the launch of the Davao-General Santos-Bitung roll on, roll off (ro-ro) sea linkage route.
Duterte and Widodo welcomed the signing of the joint declaration on the establishment of sea connectivity between Davao and General Santos in the Philippines and Bitung in Indonesia. The two will inaugurate the ro-ro route on Sunday.
Duterte and Widodo likewise witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on agricultural cooperation that seeks to strengthen the two countries’ agricultural sectors. This would allow the Philippines and Indonesia to exchange technical assistance and conduct joint research and consultations.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte and Widodo did not discuss the case of convicted Filipino drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso during the expanded bilateral meeting.
“As regards the case of Mary Jane Veloso. It was not mentioned during the expanded bilateral meeting. It will be pre-emptive to say as well if it was discussed during their private meeting,” Abella said in a statement.
Duterte on Thursday said it would be an “opportune time” to discuss Veloso’s case.
Veloso, on death row in Indonesia for her drug trafficking charge in 2010, was supposed to be executed together with other foreigners in Indonesia in 2015, but was spared by Widodo after an appeal from then President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Duterte in September 2016 visited Indonesia and discussed bilateral issues including security concerns in the Sulu-Sulawesi seas, the war on illicit drugs, maritime cooperation, enhancement of economic ties, and people-to-people exchanges with Widodo.
Widodo was quoted by the Indonesian press last year as saying Duterte had given the green light for the execution of Veloso.
But Duterte insisted that he did not mention Veloso’s case to Widodo when they talked about Indonesia’s anti-drug campaign and death penalty law in Jakarta.
Duterte said his utterance of “go ahead” referred to his support for Indonesia’s death penalty and not to Veloso’s case specifically. CATHERINE S. VALENTE