‘Manila, Jakarta deals to build Asean peace’

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (2nd R) and Philippine First Lady Louise Araneta Marcos (R) walk with Indonesian President Joko Widodo (2nd L) and Indonesian First Lady Iriana Widodo (L) after a tree-planting ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java on September 5, 2022. Achmad Ibrahim / POOL / AFP

AFTER his “very productive” state visit to Jakarta, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. expressed confidence that the agreements entered into by the Philippines and Indonesia will build “a peaceful and more united” Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

In a Facebook post, Marcos thanked President Joko Widodo, first lady Iriana Widodo, government ministries and the Indonesian people for their “kindness and hospitality.”

“We are confident that the agreements signed between our countries will help build a peaceful and more united Asean region,” he said.

Marcos' three-day state visit to Indonesia yielded at least four agreements in defense, cultural cooperation and economy.

The signed deals were presented to Marcos and Widodo on Monday after their bilateral meeting at the Teratai Hall of the Bogor Presidential Palace in West Java, Indonesia.

The first deal presented was the plan of action between Indonesia and the Philippines from 2022 to 2027.

It was presented by Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.

In a press briefing on Monday night, Press Secretary Rose Beatrix “Trixie” Cruz-Angeles said the comprehensive document outlines bilateral programs and commitments for the next five years on a wide range of areas of cooperation such as security, defense, border management, counterterrorism, economics, energy, maritime, culture, education, labor, health and consular matters, among others.

Also signed was a memorandum of understanding on cultural cooperation.

Cruz-Angeles noted that the deal will enhance the cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the Philippines and Indonesia and promote a better understanding and appreciation of the countries' remarkable cultures.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto and Jose Faustino Jr., Department of Defense undersecretary and officer in charge, also presented an agreement on cooperative activities in defense and security.

“Ito'y mag-enhance ng (This will enhance the) collaboration between our defense agencies, further promote the conduct of cooperative agreements, activities, and reinforce the modernization of the Philippine military,” Cruz-Angeles said.

The memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the Development and Promotion of the Creative Economy was also presented to the two leaders by Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno and Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual.

Cruz-Angeles described the signing as a new area of cooperation cultivating a common creative economy that “leverages on our respective strengths to foster innovation through knowledge, transfer in industries, including fashion, architecture, digital media, performing arts, music, theater, dance and creative services.”

During their bilateral meeting, Marcos said he and Widodo “had a very fruitful discussion.”

“Our discussions progressed so rapidly that we, the President and I, have agreed to organize task forces already to meet and discuss even at a technical level, no longer at the political or the diplomatic level, but at a technical level, so as to be able to take full advantage of the opportunities that we feel that are available to us and that we will need to exploit to succeed in the near future,” Marcos said.

After the discussion, Widodo hosted a state banquet for the Philippine President.

Marcos held a roundtable with Indonesian business leaders from various sectors, including energy, transportation, agriculture and defense.

Cruz-Angeles said the President was happy over the interest that they showed in the Philippine economy.

“This is part of his vision for economic recovery, and he also happily reported to them the general outcome of his agreements or his talks with President Widodo,” she added.

The President capped his second day in Indonesia with a tour of the Istiqlal Mosque.

Meanwhile, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual told chief executives of Indonesian businesses that

Manila is aiming to attract Indonesian firms to invest in the Philippine agriculture and energy sectors, which the President said are “critical areas” to the country's post-pandemic recovery.

During the roundtable meeting with Indonesian CEOs/COOs/owners organized by Philippine Business Club Indonesia and Kadin Indonesia, Pascual said that the Philippines sees increased investments as a way to strengthen partnerships because the two countries share “strong” historical, cultural and economic ties.

“Despite the hurdles brought by the pandemic and other global challenges, our respective countries are building back better. Our improved growth trajectories provide us with an opportunity to support each other,” the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) chief said.

“The Philippines is open for business. Recent policy reforms, particularly on foreign investment ownership and other restrictions as well as on incentives, have made the Philippines more conducive for foreign businesses, including those from Indonesia,” he said.

One of the reform measures the Trade secretary was referring to was the Corporate Recovery and Tax Benefits for Enterprises or Create Law, which offers investors attractive incentives based on investment tiers, locations and activities.

“What's more, the Create law empowers the Philippine President to provide a package of enhanced incentives in support of high-tech projects, which are sustainable and inclusive,” Pascual said.

He encouraged Indonesian businessmen to “come and participate” in the country's growing economy, as Indonesia belongs to the top 10 net foreign direct investment source1s of the Philippines as of August 2022.

Pascual said the government is implementing the digitalization of its services at all levels to further ease doing business in the Philippines and enhance overall productivity and competitiveness.

“In addition, we continue to invest in physical and cyber infrastructure, power generation and transmission and logistics, as well as in modern and efficient air, land and sea transport facilities. To build more of these support and service facilities, we welcome the participation of the private sector, both local and foreign,” he said. “For export-oriented investments, we have our network of free trade agreements to make production in the Philippines competitive in foreign markets,” Pascual said.

The Philippines, the DTI chief noted, aims to avail of the opportunities for participating in the global value chains of global industries undergoing reconfiguration brought about by the pandemic and the emerging geopolitical situation.

To do this, the DTI will work with foreign investors in building dynamic industry ecosystems in three strategic clusters: the Industrial, Manufacturing and Transport cluster; the Technology, Media, and Telecommunication cluster and the Health and Life Sciences cluster.

“By building more meaningful partnerships in these clusters, we believe both our countries can grow together,” Pascual said. “We will work closely with our partners in Indonesia in making sure that as we respond to their needs and interests, the work translates into real gains for both our countries.”


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