Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his desire to enhance “defence cooperation” with India, as he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two sides signed a defence cooperation agreement. He was accompanied by five Cabinet-rank ministers from the Philippines side. He is also committed to improving the public health system and wants Indian infrastructure companies to pitch in his flagship “build, build and build programme”, Ministry of External Affairs’ Secretary (East) Preeti Saran said.
- Four agreements were signed between the two countries, which covered areas of defence, agriculture, small and medium enterprises and tie-up between think-tanks.
- Modi arrived in Manila on 12 November 2017 on a three-day visit to the Philippines, during which he will attend the 15th India-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the 12th East Asia Summit.
- This is the first bilateral visit by an Indian PM to this Southeast Asian nation in 36 years after the visit of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1981, though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Philippines in 2007 for the ASEAN summit.
- Earlier in the day, Modi contributed two Indian rice seed varieties to the gene bank of the international rice research centre in the Philippines which he said is working towards mitigating global poverty and hunger by improving the cultivation of the key grain.
- He also visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, an urban locality around 65 km from Manila — the capital of the Philippines — and interacted with several Indian scientists working there.
- A number of scientists at IRRI briefed the PM on flood-tolerant rice varieties which, they said, can withstand 14-18 days of submergence and provide 1-3 tonnes more yield per hectare in flood-affected areas.