Visits Visits

Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (East) during President's visit to Philippines (October 19, 2019)

October 20, 2019

Director (XP): Good afternoon friends, I welcome you for this special briefing and during President of India’s visit to Philippines. To brief you we have with us Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh and our Ambassador to Philippines, His Excellency, Mr. Jaideep Mazumdar and also we have Shri Ajay Kumar Singh, Press Secretary to the President and also Mr. Manik Jain, Secretary from Ministry of External Affairs. After the briefing we will have Q&A session. Ma’am the floor is yours.

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Good afternoon. Rashtrapati Ji started his program after his arrival in Manila yesterday. He began his day by paying homage at the Rizal Park, Jose Rizal is the hero for the Philippines, so Rashtrapati Ji went there and paid homage there. Thereafter he received the key to the city of Manila from the Mayor of Manila and he proceeded to Malacañang Palace where he was given a ceremonial welcome and then the talks began between President Duterte and our President. The talks were in two sessions, one was tête-à-tête which was a smaller session, restricted meeting and that was followed by full delegation level talks.

The talks which took place, it began with President Duterte fondly remembering his visit to India and warmly welcoming our Rashtrapati Ji to Manila. It was a visit that he recalled that visit from President of India taking place after 13 years, the last visit was in 2006 by President APJ Kalam.

President on his part recalled, very warmly as well, the visit of President Duterte to India when he had had an opportunity to interact on the occasion of the summit meeting on 25 years of India-ASEAN partnership and also on the Republic Day of India in 2018.

The talks which took place, the two sides recognized the importance that each country has for the other country. Philippines said that India is important player in the region and they welcome India’s growing role and presence in the region. On our part we recognized Philippines as ……….. country in the ASEAN and a country who occupies a significant place in our Act East and our Indo-Pacific approach.

The talks confirmed that we would be looking at building our relationship further in all fields whether it is political, economic, defence, security, people to people as well as in capacity building and other areas. This visit is a milestone in the sense that it marks and affirms the high level interchange between the leaderships of the two countries. They have met regularly and this was remarked upon. In 2017 Prime Minister Modi was here and then 2018 there was President Duterte visiting India and 2019 our Rashtrapati Ji is here in Manila. Rashtrapati JI, of course, extended a very warm invitation to President Duterte to visit. The reason these high level visits are there is the recognition that bilateral relations are getting a momentum and that leadership is directly important to the relationship.

It was also recognized that we need to continue with our regular meeting of various bilateral meetings that we have and in particular it was emphasized that we should look at the early convening of the joint commission meeting which is headed by the Foreign Ministers on the two sides.

As far as the economics is concerned, there is the fact that India and Philippines are two fast growing economies in the region and there is great potential for cooperation between the two countries not only because of this aspiration that these two countries have but also in terms of the complementarities that exists between our two countries. In terms of aspirations Philippines has their Build-Build-Build program and India has its Make in India program. So hence both of us are looking at building infrastructure and there could be complementarities that exist. In fact they do really exist because we do have Indian companies here, some of them are in the airport sector, similarly there are Philippines countries in India and some of them are in the LNG sector.

So you see this great complementarity and interest by companies on both sides to do business with each other. Therefore Rashtrapati Ji would be of course speaking as the keynote speaker at the India-ASEAN and India-Philippines business meets today later in the afternoon. But the fact is that you have a strong delegation here and that both the leaders recognize that our private sectors have dynamism and the private sectors should now work together and tap in all the potential that exists between the two countries.

Rashtrapati Ji emphasized to the fact that as a part of the healthcare systems and to make the healthcare system affordable India is an example, both in terms of its medicines, our pharmaceutical sector can make available drugs at very affordable prices and quality drugs. So we mentioned the importance of access to market on pharmaceutical sector. Similarly it was highlighted that, in fact in a practical way that India is a very affordable place for healthcare and medical treatment is the liver transplant cases.

Rashtrapati Ji today morning had had an opportunity to interact with children as well as the parents of those who had gone to India and received treatment in hospitals in India for liver transplant. So it just highlights the possibilities of the two countries working together in the healthcare sector. And then the discussions took place on capacity building and we would be looking at how we can work and get some training going on between some of our doctors and our medical institutions in the health sector.

There was also discussion on capacity building in other sectors and those were broadly in terms of ITEC scholarships that was also touched upon in the discussions. The other issue discussed was defence cooperation and it was mentioned that the two countries have signed an agreement, a MoU on defence cooperation and logistics and that formed the basis of greater engagement between the two countries.

President Duterte mentioned that Philippines itself was working towards defence modernization and will be looking more at defence procurements and in that context it was highlighted that India does have and offers many possibilities of working with in the defence sector both in terms of procurement as well as other cooperation in the defence sector. So that was a sector which was highlighted, where we could further strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

There was discussion on maritime security because that is now a very important aspect of let’s say global trade, if we look at working in areas in terms of long term sustainability of relationships. We have some kind of MoU on information that would help in terms of greater maritime security. And the two countries emphasized that they would be meaning to work towards looking at peace and stability in the region.

It was recognized by both the leaders that South China Sea is a major sea lane of communication and that it is important that rule of law is maintained in particular adherence to the UNCLOS. In this context, President Duterte referred to India’s commitment to the rule of law when it had accepted the arbiter award in its maritime dispute with Bangladesh. So this issue of adherence to rule of law was emphasized.

There was also discussion between the two sides on terrorism because both the countries have seen terrorism and been victims of terrorism and there was agreement that we need to continue to talk to each other, exchange experiences. President Duterte, in particular, recalled that when the Marawi incident took place India was very forthcoming in its support to the rebuilding activity which took place in the Philippines.

And terrorism, it was agreed that we would work bilaterally under the joint working group and also that we would continue to exchange information and capacity building whether it is in terms of cyber security or it is in terms of even drugs or in terms of urban terrorism.

The other issue which was emphasized in the talks was connectivity and the discussions took place that we have come in close to have an agreement on updated air services agreement and with that both sides were hopeful that their air lines will start direct flights between the two countries. Tourism was again, emphasized as a sector which is growing. Travel between the two countries is increasing and therefore this direct connectivity would be very useful.

In terms of people to people contacts President Duterte was highly appreciative of the Indian community’s contribution to the Philippines. He also mentioned that the Philippines community in India, about 1500 are there, and in fact people to people contacts are the very pillar on which relationships are built. Rashtrapati Ji referred to also the fact that with the people to people contacts we would be actually building a relationship very sustainable in the future. It was mentioned that 1500 Indian medical students are studying in Philippines and that they too are here and Philippines mentioned about their contribution as well.

In fact when the discussions took place there was reference to the past linkages and that our relationship is not new, it is much before the colonial times and recognizing this fact and that there is a shared past, it was decided that the two countries would work together in a way that we are able to exchange views and understand better about our past connections. There would be experts who would be talking in this field because if you look at the language there are many commonalities of language, there are other commonalities. Rashtrapati Ji gifted a Tara statue to President Duterte. Now Tara statue, the significance is of course the Buddhist Goddess of Compassion but earlier Philippines have found a statue of Goddess Tara in one of their provinces, so it just shows that there was this old linkage between India and the Philippines then there was discussion even on as we looked at the past, there was also discussion about the future and in that connection it was recognized that the Philippines was setting up a new space agency, it was just coming up and India offered to work together with the Philippines in space cooperation as well.

ASEAN came up for discussion and again Rashtrapati Ji emphasized that ASEAN occupies a very central position in India’s Indo-Pacific policy. We look at unified and a very strong ASEAN group for our Act East policy. Rashtrapati Ji indicated that we have now announced 1000 PhD scholarships for ASEAN scholars in our premiere education institutes like Indian Institute of Technology and we welcome Philippines students to join in in this scholarship program.

Philippines on its part, President Duterte appreciated India’s contribution to the ASEAN and he referred to the fact that India has been very strong contributor to the ASEAN community development. Both sides also referred to the fact that we need to work in the international organizations and particularly it was mentioned in terms of the two initiatives that India has launched, the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resistant Infrastructure. Rashtrapati Ji invited Philippines to join both these initiatives. In fact Rashtrapati Ji conveyed his remark on the recent earthquake which took place in Philippines and offered his condolences.

I think I have covered most points but yes this is the 70th year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and the Philippines and there is great warmth in the relationship. Rashtrapati Ji and President had discussions which were extensive, forward looking. There was optimism expressed and both the sides are ready to take this relationship forward. In fact Rashtrapati Ji thanked President Duterte very warmly for the hospitality that was extended. Rashtrapati Ji said that he is in this beautiful country and using the words of Jose Rizal he said that this is the pearl of the orient sea. So these are the discussions which took place. Today in the morning as you saw Rashtrapati Ji met the children of those who have got their liver transplant done in India. Thereafter he went to Mahaveer Philippines and that is an institution set up here in 1980s and they are fitting Jaipur Foot, here they are undertaking the work in that regard. Later in the day Rashtrapati Ji had interaction with the CEOs of Indian companies and later in the evening he will be addressing the plenary session of the business meet. So I would stop here and I am open for questions.

Director (XP): Thank you very much Ma’am for this detailed account of the visit. Now I ask Ambassador of India to Philippines to make his remarks.

Ambassador of India to Philippines, Mr. Jaideep Mazumdar: Thank you. I don’t have any separate remarks from the Secretary. She covered all the issues. Thank you.

Question: How many MoUs were signed?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Four MoUs, agreements were concluded. One was an MoU on shipping cooperation, as I mentioned, the second was on science and technology, we are working together in the field of science and technology. The third was a cultural exchange program and that is significant because we are celebrating 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relations and the fourth one was on tourism cooperation.

Director (XP): As there are no questions we conclude this briefing.

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