Metro Manila – The Philippines and Timor-Leste on Friday committed to boost bilateral relations, with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. saying he had a "productive and interesting" discussion with his counterpart on issues such as the West Philippine Sea.
The Filipino leader welcomed Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta in Malacanang on Friday, where the latter received arrival honors. The Timor-Leste executive is in the country for a four-day state visit.
"I hope that this visit of yours will be the beginning of more exchanges between two countries," Marcos said during their bilateral meeting.
Marcos said Ramos-Horta also invited him to visit Timor-Leste.
"We would certainly want to do that to continue to expand the relationship between Timor-Leste and the Philippines," he added.
For his part, Ramos-Horta expressed his gratitude for local officials' warm hospitality. He also thanked the Philippines for supporting Timor-Leste's goal to join ASEAN.
"Let's expand, upgrade the relationship between our two countries," Ramos-Horta said in a joint news conference after the bilateral meeting.
"We are newer, only 21 years since the restoration of independence...we are guided by you, your...fraternal support," he added.
Education, health, and social security prioritized
During the news conference, Marcos said political cooperation and people-to-people exchanges were among the topics discussed and that the two nations will reconvene the next policy consultations in Timor-Leste.
According to a joint press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Marcos and Ramos-Horta agreed to renew the Memorandum of Agreement on Cooperation in Higher Education, which the Philippine leader said would increase student exchanges.
They have also directed their governments to "conclude at an early date" the negotiations of the following:
- Memorandum of Understanding on Health Cooperation
- Agreement on Social Security, which Marcos said would establish a "safety net for both our country's professionals working in each other's country"
- Air Services Agreement, which would set direct flights between the countries' capitals.
Marcos also said they committed to increase engagements in technical cooperation for food processing skills enhancement of Timor-Leste nationals.
The DFA said Ramos-Horta reaffirmed Dili's support for Manila's bid for a non-permanent member seat at the United Nations Security Council for the 2027 to 2028 period.
In his statement at the news conference, Marcos said the fellow Southeast Asian leader brought up "the many suggestions and mechanisms...that can be of use to the Philippines when it comes to the challenges that we are presently facing in the issues that are regarding the South China Sea or as we refer to it, the West Philippine Sea."
He also expressed gratitude for receiving "expressions of support" from Ramos-Horta regarding Manila's adherence to a rules-based international law and to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In its maritime row with China, Manila always calls on Beijing to adhere to UNCLOS and a rules-based international order.
"And of all the different issues that we are facing, geopolitical issues that we are facing around the world, once again, the experience of the President (Ramos-Horta) has shown what the Philippines can do to further our discussion and our argument as to the continued adherence of all partners to a rules-based system and international law," he added.
Their bilateral meeting came amid another report on Friday that the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) fired a water cannon at a Philippine vessel and harassed two other boats in an attempt to block a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal in the disputed waterway.