• Manila seeks defense dialogue with Singapore

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    President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam review the honor guard in Malacañang. The Singaporean leader is here for a four-day state visit. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam review the honor guard in Malacañang. The Singaporean leader is here for a four-day state visit. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

    Amid its territorial dispute with China, the Philippines has proposed holding a “defense dialogue” with Singapore to maintain regional stability.

    ”I believe that strengthening defense and security cooperation between the Philippines and Singapore is key to maintaining regional stability,” President Benigno Aquino 3rd said during a joint news conference with Singaporean President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the presidential palace.

    Aquino said he and Tan discussed “our countries’ defense and security cooperation, which includes high-level training, educational and intelligence exchanges.”

    In his statement, Tan said Singapore shares “a common vision of building a strong, united and stable Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] community.”

    ”We will continue to work closely to promote the common interest of our region,” he added.

    The two leaders did not mention the territorial dispute with China in their statements.

    Aside from defense and security, Aquino and Tan also discussed the revival of the Philippines-Singapore Action Plan, a mechanism for expanding bilateral discussions between the two Southeast Asian nations.

    The plan provides “a consolidated framework for strengthening our bilateral cooperation, covering expansive areas including trade and investments, information technology, education, culture, defense and people-to-people exchanges.”

    ”I look forward to the implementation of initiatives in these areas, knowing that it will have a positive impact on relations between the Philippines and Singapore,” Aquino said.

    In his message, Tan congratulated Aquino on the success of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

    ”This is a momentous accomplishment and a testament to the leadership and efforts of President Aquino and his administration in brokering peace and stability for the Philippines and the region,” he said.

    Tan will fly to Basey town in Samar on Saturday to hand out donations of the people of Singapore to communities affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda. He will also turn over medical supplies to the Basey District Hospital, the beneficiary of the joint rehabilitation project between the Singapore Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

    ”We are heartened that the spirit and resilience of the Philippine people remain strong in such devastation. We have been working with the Philippine government and stakeholders in the rehabilitation efforts,” he said.

    Aquino thanked the Singapore government for its commitment to help the Philippines to “build back better and stronger.”

    ”I take the opportunity to thank you, Mr. President, and the Singaporean people for your solidarity, especially in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. It was a time of great grief and sorrow for all Filipinos, and your assistance, along with that of the rest of the international community, eased the burden, and helped us along the path to recovery,” he said
    ”I assure you: The Filipino people will never forget the support you gave us, and we will always be ready to repay your kindness,” Aquino added.

    The Singaporean leader arrived in Manila on Wednesday afternoon for a four-day state visit. He visited the Rizal Park (Luneta) on Thursday morning for wreath-laying.

    Aquino then hosted a state luncheon for the visiting leader.

    A tour of Fort Santiago and a dinner reception with the Singaporean community in Manila were also part of Tan’s itinerary, as well as a meeting with members of the Philippine-Singapore Business Council.

    Singapore was the Philippines’ fourth largest trade partner last year, with total trade amounting to $8.22 billion.

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