Philippine foreign secretary here on introductory visit

The Philippines Foreign Secretary Jose Rene Almendras met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Singapore counterpart, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, during a two-day introductory visit to Singapore.

Mr Almendras, who called on PM Lee on Tuesday and met Dr Balakrishnan yesterday, updated them on developments in his country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said yesterday.

Both sides reaffirmed the longstanding and warm relations between Singapore and the Philippines and noted the strong people-to-people links, which they hope to see strengthened further, the MFA said in a statement. PM Lee and Dr Balakrishnan also had good discussions with Mr Almendras on regional issues, including developments in Asean and the South China Sea, the statement added.

The Philippine foreign ministry said in a statement yesterday that Mr Almendras conveyed his country's appreciation "for the leadership role Singapore is ably performing as present coordinator for Asean-China dialogue relations".

Singapore took over as coordinator from Thailand last year.

The Philippines and Singapore also consider Asean's solidarity, unity and centrality to be " vital" in resolving disputes such as over the South China Sea, the Philippine ministry statement added.

Mr Almendras stressed that the Philippines "has complete respect for the Asean process and fully supports Asean centrality in pushing forward our agenda for community building, including enhanced relations with dialogue partners such as China".

China's maritime claims as well as reclamation and construction activities on disputed features in the South China Sea have alarmed its neighbours, especially the Philippines and Vietnam, which have overlapping claims. Other claimants are Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Philippine and Vietnamese defence officials will meet this week to explore possible joint exercises and navy patrols, the Reuters news agency reported yesterday, quoting military sources.

Raul Dancel

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Philippine foreign secretary here on introductory visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe