By Argyll Geducos
The Philippines and Singapore signed eight Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) as President Rodrigo Duterte and President Halimah Yacob renewed the ties between the two Southeast Asian countries.
Duterte and Halimah witnessed the exchange of the eight MOUs after their bilateral meeting in Malacañang Monday afternoon.
The MOUs are the following:
1. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Philippine Department of Education and Temasek Foundation International and Nanyang Polytechnic International Programme on Innovations and Teaching and Learning of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with Design Thinking
2. MOU between the Philippine Department of Agriculture and Enterprise Singapore on Agricultural Cooperation and Related Activities
3. MOU between the Department of Trade and Industry of the Republic of the Philippines, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority of the Republic of the Philippines, and Skills Future Singapore Agency of the Republic of Singapore on cooperation on human capital development and rescaling and skills upgrading of the workforce.
4. MOU between the Development Bank of the Philippines and Infrastructure Asia Singapore on knowledge sharing to support infrastructure development
5. MOU between Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and Public Utilities Board of Singapore
6. MOU between the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Republic of the Philippines and Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth of the Republic of Singapore on Cultural Cooperation
7. MOU between Infrastructure Asia and Public-Private Partnership Center on assisting Philippine local implementing agencies with the development or implementation of PPP projects
8. MOU between the National Privacy Commission of the Republic of the Philippines and The Personal Data Protection Commission of the Republic of Singapore on Cooperation in Personal Data Protection.
Duterte said that with the agreements signed, both countries take the first of their eager steps toward another 50 years of natural, mutually reinforcing and beneficial partnership.
“With mutual trust, respect, and abiding amity, I am confident that we will achieve our shared goals and aspirations for our peoples, he said.
“We will forge ahead and bring our ties to even greater heights of [purposive] cooperation and friendship between the Philippines and Singapore,” he added.
In his opening remarks during their bilateral meeting, Duterte commended the 50-year relationship between the Philippines and Singapore. He also vowed that the Philippines will work with Singapore to further improve the ties between the two countries.
“Your Excellency, this year we mark the golden jubilee of our diplomatic relations. Guided by our comprehensive roadmap — our cooperation has explored across all areas of engagements over the past five decades. Our ties are indeed at the highest level and we must, therefore, do all that we can to ensure that the only way to go is even higher,” Duterte said.
“I look forward to productive discussions with Your Excellency today. I stand ready to work with you to further elevate and expand our bilateral cooperation in the coming years,” he added.
Halimah said that there are a lot of things that the Philippines and Singapore can do together both bilaterally and at multilateral fora.
“I am confident that the next chapter of Singapore-Philippines relations will be marked by deeper friendships and closer collaboration between our peoples and the two countries,” she said.
According to Duterte, he and Halimah reviewed the full range of the engagements between the Philippines and Singapore and exchanged views on the direction of the future collaboration of the two countries.
“We talked about deepening our cooperation in defense and security, which includes strengthening defense dialogues and training exchanges between the military and Special Forces,” he said.
“President Yacob and I committed to further intensify trade and investment links, mindful of the goals we have set for ourselves under the Philippines-Singapore Action Plan or PSAP,” he added.
According to Duterte, Singapore is the Philippines’s second highest source of investments in 2018, committing a total of P21.18 billion, or 11.8 percent of the country’s foreign pledges. Singapore is also the Philippines’s seventh largest trading partner with two-way trade at US$10.49 billion.
Meanwhile, Duterte said he also asked Halimah’s support as the Philippines encourage Singaporeans to participate in the country’s priority investment areas. He also sought to further cooperation in agriculture, education and training, science and technology, tourism and cultural exchanges.
Duterte also shared with Halimah the gains in peace and development in Mindanao, particularly in establishing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“We discussed ways by which our cooperation could help contribute in bringing just and lasting peace and meaningful progress and development in Mindanao – one of the greatest and most crucial undertakings that our nation has embarked [upon],” he said.
Meanwhile, Halimah said that while both she and Duterte agreed that the economic ties between the Philippines and Singapore are strong and robust, the two countries can do more.
“There is room to further boost trade and investment flows. We hope to make progress on updating the Singapore-Philippines Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement and the expansion of the bilateral Air Transport Agreement, which will increase connectivity and create more opportunities for collaboration and growth,” she said.
The Singaporean leader also told Duterte that Singapore deeply appreciates the contributions of the more than 200,000 Filipinos living, working, and studying there to Singapore’s society and economy.
She was also elated that there is a vibrant Singaporean community in the Philippines which she will meet in the next few days. She said many of the Singaporeans are in the country for humanitarian and inter-faith work.
Peace and prosperity
According to Halimah, she and Duterte shared a common aspiration for lasting peace and prosperity in the Southeast Asian region.
“We will work closely together in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to promote continued dialogue so as to build a strong, united and integrated ASEAN community),” she said.
Halimah is in the Philippines for a five-day State visit. She arrived in the country Sunday afternoon and will return to Singapore on Thursday.