President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will advance the interests of the Filipino people during the bilateral meeting with South Korea on Monday, as well as his participation in the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative (ROK) Summit this week, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said.
Point of discussions during the leaders’ meetings includes the push for regional security, peace, and stability, regional connectivity, as well as the conclusion of the proposed Philippines-South Korea free trade agreement.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has repeatedly said that he does not want to have a conflict in the Korean peninsula. Apart from Filipinos working in South Korea, we are very close. Definitely, not only the Philippines will be affected by this, but the entire world will be affected,” Secretary Andanar said in a press briefing here on Sunday.
“The interest of the Filipino people is what the President will bring here in South Korea, that includes regional security,” he added.
President Duterte is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit. Secretary Andanar said that the two governments will be signing bilateral agreements in the fields of education, tourism, social security, and fisheries.
Noting that South Korea is the seventh-largest official development assistance (ODA) partner of the Philippines, Secretary Andanar said: “It only means that our relationship is very robust and very strong.”
The PCOO chief and the South Korean envoy said that the two leaders will discuss updates on free trade talks during the bilateral meeting.
“Hopefully, if there’s a good agreement on that area, not only major products like bananas and pineapples but hopefully more products may be imported from our country,” Andanar said.
South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines, H.E. Han Dong-man, meanwhile, said that the conclusion of the proposed free trade deal would likely be in 2020.
“Even though we made some progress, there are lots of time to discuss further. But we reaffirm the importance of the FTA is a platform to expand our trade and investment relationship between our two countries,” he said in the same press briefing.
“Hopefully, maybe next year we conclude our FTA,” he added.
Ambassador Han also noted that his government eyes to have a visa-free policy in the future, as long as the two countries need to address the number of illegal Filipino workers in South Korea.
“We hope in the near future we can have a free visa policy between Korea and the Philippines, but so far there are a certain number of illegal Filipinos in Korea,” Han said, noting that they are approximately “15,000.”
“Your Department of Justice and also our Korea Department of Justice will try to lower the number of illegal people, so eventually we can have a free visa policy one day,” he added.
Han also expressed optimism in the Philippine economy as he noted the Korean government’s participation in the “Build, Build, Build” program such as the New Cebu International Container Port, the Dumaguete airport, and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Center in low-lying areas of Pampanga.
“Once completed, those infrastructure projects will be very crucial and very helpful to enhance the competitiveness of the Philippine economy. Korea is also optimistic about the future of the Philippine economy,” he said.
The South Korean Ambassador also lauded the Philippines for its support during the Korean War.
“The Philippines helped us to fight against the communist during the Korean war that’s why Koreans cannot forget the sacrifice of Filipino Korean war veterans,” he said.
“Korea, as a very close ally and partner of the Philippines, will remain as a true friend to work together. We are in the same boat to navigate a long journey, eventually for achieving co-prosperity,” Ambassador Han added. (PCOO)