MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday welcomed Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to Malacañang, as the two Pacific nations agreed to enhance cooperation in the field of agriculture.
Duterte and O’Neill signed a Joint Declaration of Agricultural Cooperation with emphasis on rice production.
“We have asked our relevant officials to negotiate and conclude at the soonest possible time an agreement that will bring our bilateral agriculture cooperation to the modern era, one that will truly be transformative and a hallmark of genuine partnership,” Duterte said in his joint press statement with O’Neill.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier said he was considering the idea of sending Filipino farmers to Papua New Guinea, a nation of 8 million people, to plant rice there and ship excess harvest to the Philippines. His plan drew flak among militant farmers groups.
Papua New Guinea officials are expected to visit the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Nueva Ecija on May 17.
Duterte said he also discussed with O’Neill defense and security cooperation, trade and investment relations, and people-to-people exchanges.
“In the pursuit of greater peace, progress, and prosperity for our peoples, we have realized that we have to do more together to ensure what we want to achieve and the goals reached,” he said. “There must be translated into actions the sustained projects and tangible results that can be measured.”
O’Neill, for his part, thanked the Philippines for its contributions to Papua New Guinea and welcomed the agriculture cooperation between the two countries.
“We have a very strong presence of the Filipino investment community [as well as] Filipino workers who are providing good technical support, particularly in education and health, in our country,” he said.
“I appreciate the communiqué that we have signed today between our two ministers to advance again the agriculture relationship between our two countries, particularly in the production of the rice fields in our country where we need to ensure that there’s food security for both Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.”
O’Neill said the Philippines and Papua New Guinea also agreed to extend their technical cooperation.
“We acknowledge that we need to continue to extend our people-to-people relationship and that is an indication of the growing relationship between our two countries and the freedoms and the lawful activities that we continue to enjoy as citizens of both countries,” he said.
Papua New Guinea is this year’s host of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings.