By Roy Mabasa
Sri Lankan Democratic Socialist Republic President Maithripala Sirisena will undertake a state visit to the Philippines from January 15 to 19 on the invitation of President Rodrigo Duterte.
According to a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Sirisena is slated to meet with Duterte on January 16 to hold bilateral discussions on several key areas of mutual interest.
During his five-day stay in Manila, Sirisena is scheduled to visit the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños.
Sirisena’s visit is said to be the first by a Sri Lankan president serving both as head of state and government under Sri Lanka’s 1978 Constitution, and the second by a Sri Lankan leader since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in January 1961.
The Sri Lankan Embassy in Manila noted that the two countries have always enjoyed excellent relations based on mutual respect and shared values, and identified areas such as, trade and economic, education, knowledge sharing, agriculture, energy, food processing, air services, defense, tourism, culture, and strong and enduring people to people contact as priority sectors for mutual cooperation.
In October last year, the two sides convened their 2nd political consultations in Manila where they agree to broaden their ties in the areas of trade and investment, defense, tourism, labor migration, agriculture, and mutual legal assistance.
The two countries explored new areas of cooperation including training for health service providers in disaster response, technical cooperation in nursing, and sister-city agreements between local government units.
In addition, they also exchanged views on regional developments in Asia, as well as in ASEAN-related topics including ASEAN-Sri Lanka relations and Sri Lanka’s desire to become a sectoral dialogue partner in the regional bloc.