By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines and Palau have agreed to enhance their “good and solid” relations by intensifying cooperation on maritime security, anti-narcotics, medical tourism, education, among others.
The agreement was reached during the warm meeting between President Duterte and Palau President Thomas Remengesau Jr. at the Presidential Guest House in Davao City last Thursday.
“President Duterte conveyed the Philippine government’s strong commitment to strengthen its relationship with Palau, noting that the bond between the two countries remain ‘good and solid,'” a press statement from Malacañang read.
“He also discussed sustainable maritime defense with President Remengesau, saying that he has been working with the key players in the sector to improve maritime security in the Asia Pacific Region,” it added.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the two leaders have also reaffirmed the friendship, citing cultural ties, similar histories and shared challenges, during the “very warm and engaging” meeting.
“Both sides renewed the commitment to enhance and expand cooperation, particularly in education, maritime security and delimitation, agriculture and aquaculture, counternarcotics, connectivity, medical tourism and trade and investments,” he said.
He said senior officials from both sides have been directed to conduct more discussions on these areas of cooperation.
“Both looked forward to an exchange of formal visits. The meeting lasted for more than one hour,” Roque added.
In the same meeting, the President offered to provide scholarships for Palau citizens who wish to study in the country, particularly in the field of medicine.
“Both leaders likewise noted that their nations had a memorandum of understanding where both countries would exchange knowledge and expertise on medical tourism and referral and higher education,” the Palace said.
The visiting Palau President, meantime, thanked the Filipinos for being “very instrumental” in the economic development of Palau. He noted that Filipino workers make up about 60 percent of the foreign migrant workers in Palau.
He also disclosed plans to open more direct flights between the Philippines and Palau to improve connectivity and boost tourism cooperation. Palau also intends to reopen consular offices in the Philippines.
The Palau leader was accompanied by Governor of Ngiwal State Ellender Ngirameketii, Governor of Airai State Tmewang Rengulbai, Chief of Staff Secilil Eldebechel and Oscar TJ Remengesau.
Among the Philippine officials present were Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo, Commission on Higher Education officer-in-charge Prospero de Vera III, Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Catalino Cuy, and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino.