By Genalyn Kabiling
SEOUL — The Philippines and South Korea have agreed to elevate friendly relations to a “higher level in a future-oriented way” following the signing of five cooperation accords.
The bilateral agreements on enhancing trade and investments, energy, technology, transportation, and a loan pact for a Cebu port expansion were sealed after the meeting between President Duterte and South Korean President Moon Jae-in Monday.
The two leaders met behind closed doors at the Blue House, reaffirmed the “special” friendship between the two countries, and agreed to further develop economic and defense and security relations.
“There were plenty of productive discussions on ways to elevate our long-standing friendly relations to an even higher level in a future-oriented way and to establish regional peace together,” Moon said after the meeting with Duterte.
“The two leaders agreed to significantly increase our bilateral trade volume that currently stands at approximately $15 billion and to further expand investments between our two countries,” he added.
Moon said he looks forward to Korean companies participating in transportation, energy , infrastructure, information communications, science and technology “to create the growth engine for the future together.”
The agreements inked by the two countries before the presence of Duterte and Moon are:
1. A loan agreement on New Cebu Container Per project between the Philippines and Export-Import Bank of Korea
The project, which aims to increase operational capacity in the main cargo gateway, costs a total of US$ 199.25 million with Korea providing a loan of $172.641 million and the Philippines shouldering $26.609 million.
The port proposal, located at the Consolacion, Cebu, also seeks to alleviate road congestion in the Cebu base port area and and provide a more efficient and reliable transport infrastructure for the unimpeded flow of goods and services in the Visayas
2. Memorandum on understanding on transportation cooperation would be inked between the Department of Transportation and the Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport
Under the pact, the two countries will share information, experiences and technology in roads, railways and airports as well as facilitate transport-related industries and organizations to enhance their competitiveness
3. Memorandum of Understanding on scientific and technological cooperation between the Department of Science and Technology and Ministry of Science and Information Communication Technology of Korea.
The agreement aims to promote cooperation on biotechnology, nanotechnology, data analysis, artificial intelligence, nuclear technology, water resources management, disaster mitigation, meteorology, among others.
4. Memorandum of understanding on trade and economic cooperation between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Korean Ministry of Knowledge and Economy.
The agreement aims to establish the Joint Commission of Trade and Economic Cooperation to deepen bilateral trade, investments and economic ties as well as implement various projects on industrial and trade cooperation.
5. Memorandum of understanding for cooperation on the expansion of renewable energy between the Department of National Defense and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy
Under the agreement, the two countries will cooperate in expanding renewable energy deployment such as solar and wind power
President Duterte recognized that there was “room for healthy growth” in the relations between the Philippines and South Korea, and bring the ties forward in the modern century.
The President said the Philippines has much to learn from South Korea’s story of successful transformation into a global economic powerhouse. “This is why we are keen on partnering with [South] Korea in advancing new and innovative backbones of our modern development,” Duterte said in the joint press statement with Moon.
“The Philippines is working to transform our own [economy and] to modernize to meet the challenges of this century. In this regard, [intensified] cooperation is needed in trade and investments, including the opening up of new markets,” he said.
He said the signing of bilateral agreements promises “not just a growth for our economies but also ushers in a new era of stronger cooperation and partnership.”
The two leaders have agreed to work together to further enhance political and economic cooperation, defense and security, trade and investment, infrastructure, information technology, agriculture, protection of nationals, and environment.
According to Duterte, they also recognized the need for stability and security in the region, which are the foundations of solid growth for both nations.
He said they discussed strengthening collaboration in defense and security to counter terrorism and other transnational crimes.
Duterte also said the Philippines welcomes Korea’s new southern policy that aims to deepen ties with Southeast Asia.
“The Philippines’ destiny is in Asia. We need to work with friends and partners like South Korea to achieve shared aspirations for our people and regions,’ he said.
“A deeper engagement with South Korea, our long-standing partner and true friend is essential to further strengthen individual and collective efforts for greater peace, progress, and prosperity,” he added.
The two leaders also agreed to designate 2019 as the year of mutual exchanges between the two countries to mark the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties.
After the meeting, Moon hosted a dinner for the President and the delegation at the State Guest House.
On Tuesday, the President is scheduled to meet with the Korean business community and try to urge them to do business in the country. Duterte, who was looking to buy helicopters from South Korea, is also expected to visit one of the Korean bases to inspect defense equipment.
Duterte is expected to depart for the Philippines on Tuesday.