Published : Tuesday, November 22, 2011 00:00
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The Philippines is acquiring military hardware from South Korea, President Benigno Aquino 3rd said on Monday.
“I expressed to President Lee the interest of the Philippines to gain some specific defense articles such as military grade helicopters, boats and [other] aircraft. This is in consonance with the upgrading and modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP],” President Aquino added.
The President was referring to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who is in Manila for a three-day visit that began on Sunday.
Mr. Aquino earlier allotted P10 billion for the modernization of the Philippine military.
The Philippines and the Republic of Korea also on Monday signed five bilateral agreements, including the granting of a $500-million loan to Manila and the setting up of a power plant in Subic Bay Ecnomic Zone in Zambales province, north of Manila.
South Korea is the fifth largest trade partner of the Philippines, with bilateral trade reaching $6.08 billion in 2010.
It was also the 3rd top investor last year, with investments that reached $691.3 million.
South Korea remains the No. 1 source of foreign tourists with 740,000 arrivals last year.
There are now 115,000 permanent resident South Koreans in the country and there are at present more than 20,000 overseas Filipino workers in South Korea.
“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,” Mr. Aquino told Lee.
He mentioned the first agreement, which presented a mechanism allowing the Philippines to obtain soft loans from South Korea up to a maximum of $500 million for 2011 to 2013.
The second agreement was a framework arrangement for grant aid for the next five years.
South Korean grant aid to the Philippines is at its largest in 2011, with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) providing P1 billion for development programs in its priority sectors of agriculture, infrastructure, health and climate change.
Since Koica’s inception in 1991, the Philippines has received a total of around P4.4 billion in grant assistance.
Koica implements and administers the grant aid and technical cooperation programs provided by the South Korean government to its partner countries.
It is under the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In the Philippines, Koica seeks to help alleviate poverty by promoting sustainable socio-economic development and supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Mr. Aquino recognized the South Korean support for Philipine agriculture.
“In line with the Philippines’ target of rice self-sufficiency by the year 2013, I am proud to say that the Republic of Korea comes among our most active partners in the agriculture sector. In fact, our two countries have also signed two memorandums of understanding to further enhance our agricultural cooperation. The first involves the establishment of multi-industry clusters in select areas in thePhilippines. These clusters aim to achieve food security and create new jobs in the agricultural sector of the Philippines and the Republic of Korea through a public-private partnership,” the Philippine president said.
The second memorandum of understanding is on the Jalaur River multi-purpose priority project to improve the irrigation system in Iloilo province, generate power and provide a reliable supply of potable water to its residents.
Completing the list of five agreements signed on Monday is another memorandum of understanding aimed at addressing increasing power demand in Luzon in the coming years.
Lee said that ties between the Philippines and South Korea go back to 1949 when the two countries first established diplomatic relations.
“And ever since, we have been enjoying a very close friendship and a partnership. And especially during the Korean War, just a year after establishing diplomatic relationship, 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,” the South Korean president added.
Lee said that the Philippines has highly-skilled labor force and abundance of natural resources.
“During our meeting today, President Aquino and I had substantive and very in-depth discussions on ways to strengthen our economic partnership and cooperation. First of all, we agreed to continuously improve the business and environment conditions here in the Philippines that will entice many more Korean companies to come to the Philippines to do business which will lead to increased trade and business between our two countries,” he added.
According to Lee, there is a wide array of issues, including agriculture, energy and infrastructure—areas where both South Korea and the Philippines have a great interest in.
WITH REPORT FROM DARWIN G. AMOJELAR