MANILA – The Philippines and Laos on Monday agreed to “explore” a stronger relationship in different areas, particularly agriculture and people-to-people exchange.
This developed after President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. received the credentials of Lao Ambassador to the Philippines Sonexay Vannaxay in a ceremony in Malacañang, according to a press release from the Palace.
"It is time to explore our relationship between Lao PDR [People's Democratic Republic] and the Philippines. I think it's time to explore a stronger bilateral relationship. Since we are from the same region, there are many areas of which we have the same interests and the same difficulties, and the challenges we face," Marcos said.
He told Vannaxay of his administration’s priority to improve the Philippine agriculture sector and welcomed efforts to collaborate and cooperate.
Citing his recent visit to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna, Marcos underscored his desire to elevate the current condition of the rice industry and push for sustainable rice value chains.
"We can start the agricultural exchanges in the exchange of technology, transfer of technology. And perhaps from there, we can do more," he added.
Marcos likewise cited the great potential and a promising future for the Philippines and Laos in terms of trade.
"We have already passed the trade levels during the pre-pandemic [period]. So we are doing more trade now than we were in 2019. So I think that's a healthy sign that now we are back and we can continue to grow the trade relations. It seems natural because we are such close neighbors," he added.
He and the Lao envoy also discussed efforts to boost people-to-people ties.
“I think if there is exposure, especially to younger people, then it's a way to introduce the Philippines also, so that will make our people-to-people exchange grow," he said.
For his part, Vannaxay lauded Manila and Vientiane's "good relations in diplomatic and political affairs."
"Since the establishment of our diplomatic ties over six decades, our two countries have maintained good relations in diplomatic and political affairs, as well as supporting each other in regional and international fora," Vannaxay said.
He also sought the Philippines' assistance in the health sector, particularly in the training of nursing professionals.
"I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the Philippines for helping us in many areas... Help us in training the sectors of diplomat, as well as nursing and health areas," he added.
The Philippines formally established diplomatic relations with Laos on Jan. 14, 1955.
The Philippines and Laos are among the 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Other member states include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (PNA)