NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar (Philippines News Agency) - President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to arrive here on Sunday for his first official visit to Myanmar.
Duterte is scheduled to meet with Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw to discuss the strengthening of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Myanmar.
"President Duterte’s visit to Myanmar is significant in many respects. In particular, the discussion will include talks on improving trade and investment relations," said Alex Chua, Philippine Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
The official visit, which will be from March 19 to 20, will coincide with the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-Myanmar bilateral relations.
"Commemorative activities have been held beginning last year and the president’s visit to Myanmar this year is the culmination of the celebration of this milestone in our friendly relations with Myanmar," said Chua.
According to the envoy, the Philippine president's visit to Myanmar, an ASEAN member country, symbolizes the Philippines’ commitment to the shared aspiration and values of ASEAN. This year, the Philippines chairs the ASEAN as the region celebrates the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the grouping.
During Duterte's visit, Chua said, a memorandum of understanding on food security and agricultural cooperation will be signed between the two governments.
Duterte will meet with key political figures in Myanmar. "President Duterte’s meeting with President U Htin Kyaw, Myanmar’s first civilian president in five decades, is a concrete manifestation of the Philippines’ continued support for countries in the region," Chua said.
The president will also meet with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss regional cooperation and Commander-in-Chief Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to explore the deepening of the two countries' bilateral defense cooperation.
Since the establishment of their bilateral relations in 1956, the Philippines' and Myanmar's economic relations have grown, Chua said.
Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s trade statistics, the Philippines’ top exports to Myanmar are medicaments, while the country’s major imports from Myanmar are agricultural products.
The embassy is hopeful that the recently concluded sister-city agreement between Quezon City and the Yangon region, the first twinning agreement between the two countries, and the memorandum of understanding between the Philippine Franchise Association and the Myanmar Retailers Association will facilitate stronger business relations between the Philippines and Myanmar.
The Filipinos in Myanmar are professionals, working as teachers, lawyers, engineers and humanitarian workers. There is also an increasing number of Myanmar nationals studying in the Philippines.
"It is these exchanges between Filipinos and Myanmar nationals that strengthen our relations," Chua said.
The Philippine Embassy in Yangon have facilitated the conclusion of a visa-free agreement with Myanmar in 2013, which allows Filipinos to stay in Myanmar for up to 14 days without the need for a visa. This visa-free agreement is expected to lead to more people-to-people exchanges.
The Filipino community is looking forward to welcoming Duterte.
"Masasabi kong lubos na nasasabik ang mga Pilipino na makita at makapiling ang ating mahal na pangulo sa kanyang pagbisita sa Myanmar (I can say that the Filipinos here are very much excited to meet the president when he visits Myanmar)," Chua said.
Duterte garnered more than 56 percent of the votes cast in Myanmar.
"Karamihan po sa ating mga kababayan ay naninirahan sa Yangon, na may limang oras ang layo sa Nay Pyi Taw, kung saan bibisita si pangulo. Limang oras sa sasakyan patungong Nay Pyi Taw at limang oras muli pabalik ng Yangon (Most of our compatriots here live in Yangon, which is five hours away from Nay Pyi Taw, where the president will make his visit. Five hours going to Nay Pyi Taw and five hours going back to Yangon)," Chua said.
He further noted that Filipinos are regarded well in Myanmar. "They contribute to the development of the economies of both the Philippines and Myanmar. Majority of professionals (are) working as engineers, teachers, managers, lawyers and humanitarian workers," Chua said.
The envoy said that as teachers, Filipinos contribute to building Myanmar’s human resources, while as humanitarian workers, they provide assistance in difficult front-line conditions.
In 2016, the Philippines ranked as Myanmar’s 16th biggest investor.
Philippine companies that have carved their own niche in this country include United Pharma, Liwayway Corp., Asia Brewery, Splash Corp., Manila Water, ComWorks and Universal Robina Corp. Just last year, Phinma Education, along with leading clothing brands Bench and Penshoppe, joined the list of growing Philippine companies in Myanmar.