Tuesday, November 22, 2011

PNoy to Korean president: PHL needs ‘defense articles’

President Benigno Aquino III has expressed to visiting Korean President Lee Myung-Bak the government's interest to improve the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by obtaining "defense articles."

"On defense cooperation, I expressed to President Lee the interest of the Philippines to gain some specific defense articles such as military grade helicopters, boats, and aircrafts," Aquino said in his speech Monday after the expanded bilateral meeting held in Malacañang.

"This is in consonance with the upgrading and modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines," Aquino added.

The Aquino administration has moved to fast-track the modernization of the AFP following the tensions earlier this year between the Philippines and China due to accusations that China is becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its South China Sea claims.

Aquino, on Monday, also said they updated each other on developments in the Korean peninsula and the West Philippine Sea, and agreed to steadily advance bilateral relationship between the two countries for it to be able to reach greater heights.

"I have full confidence that our meeting this morning has [positioned] our two countries toward a more positive, dynamic, and nurturing friendship that will best serve the mutual interest of the Filipino and Korean peoples," Aquino said.

Limitless potential

For his part, Lee, through an interpreter, said the potential for a much improved cooperation between Korea and the Philippines is “limitless," noting the Philippines’ highly-skilled labor force and abundance of natural resources.

Aquino said the Republic of Korea is the fifth largest trade partner of the Philippines with bilateral trade reaching P6.08 billion in 2010. It was also the third top investor in the Philippines last year with investments that reached $691.3 million.

“The Republic of Korea and its business sector have continued to display confidence in the economic prospects and opportunities found in the Philippines and, for this, I thank them," he said.

Lee said they agreed to continuously improve the business and environment conditions here in the Philippines as this will entice more Korean companies to come to the Philippines to do business, which will lead to increased trade and investments between the two countries.

The Philippines and Korea signed five agreements on trade and agriculture.

Aquino said he and Lee had extensive discussions on bilateral and multilateral issues of mutual interest, which have significant bearing on the Philippines-Republic of Korean relations.

They also recalled the vital role played by the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea, locally known as PEFTOK, in aiding the Republic of Korea during the Korean War—just one year after the two countries formally established bilateral relations.

Aquino said his father, slain Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was one of those sent to Korea during the war and became the youngest war correspondent at the age of 17.

Forever grateful

Lee said the Koreans will forever be grateful to the Filipinos for the help during the war. “The young soldiers here from the Philippines came all the way to Korea to help us defend against communist aggression and help us defend our freedom and our democracy and for this we will always remain eternally grateful," he said.

Lee and Aquino also held a broad ranging and in-depth exchange of views on how to enhance the bilateral relationship within the context of regional milieu. They noted the productive meetings held during the recently conducted East-Asia Summit in Bali, Indonesia and both reaffirmed their commitment to enhance regional cooperation through the ASEAN framework.

Lee said in their “very constructive and useful talks we discussed not only about the state of the current affairs between our two countries but also talking about the future that we both hope to see."

He also conveyed to Aquino his “deepest admiration for what you are doing for the people of the Philippines."

Lee said despite the economic crisis that all of the countries are going through, the Philippine economy posted remarkable 7.6 percent growth.

“This is an outstanding number as the envy of many countries around the world and also you are on a path towards continuous growth. And I believe that this was possible because President Aquino you have demonstrated tremendous vision and resolve in your inclusive growth of vision which is about providing the Filipino people with a better future and prosperity for all," he said. - Amita O. Legaspi/KBK, GMA News
11/21/2011 | 02:24 PM

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