Widodo starts 2-day state visit

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HIS FIRST  Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo walks with Lt. General Jeffrey Delgado (right) upon his arrival at the Villamor Airbase for his first state visit in Manila. AFP PHOTO

HIS FIRST
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo walks with Lt. General Jeffrey Delgado (right) upon his arrival at the Villamor Airbase for his first state visit in Manila. AFP PHOTO

New Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrived on his first state visit to the Philippines on Sunday as the fate of a Filipina facing execution for drug smuggling in his country hovers over planned talks.

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Dressed in traditional batik shirt, Widodo was met at Villamor Airbase by Philippine officials before being whisked away without making any statement.

Widodo, who is on the last stop of a three-nation trip after visiting Malaysia and Brunei, will meet with President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday. The two leaders are expected to sign several agreements.

However, his visit comes as the Philippines tries to prevent the execution of a female national facing death by firing squad in Indonesia after being convicted of smuggling heroin.

Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the leaders will discuss drug trafficking but did not say if they would address the case of the woman, who has not been publicly named.

“We are in discussions to further work out cooperation in various areas of mutual interest and concerns, such as migrant workers, technical-vocational skills upgrading, the combatting of trafficking of narcotics, and (for) educational visits,” Lacierda said.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma also said the two leaders will also take up “maritime cooperation, defense, trade and investment.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that the accords would cover education, narcotics cooperation, a joint declaration on protecting migrant workers and “research and training in the field of defense studies”.

This could include the issue of China, which regards Indonesia as having a potentially pivotal role in calming rising tensions between Manila and Beijing over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, according to analysts.

Widodo will be in Manila until February 10. Indonesia was the Philippines’ 11th largest trade partner in 2013, with total trade amounting to $3.62 billion.

The Philippines and Indonesia “enjoy excellent bilateral relations and cooperate extensively in numerous areas,” according to a statement issued by the DFA.

The two countries signed the landmark Agreement Concerning the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone Boundary on May 23, 2014, effectively clarifying the maritime boundary between Southern Mindanao and North Sulawesi in Indonesia.

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