S'pore and the Philippines boost digital, healthcare, counterterrorism cooperation

PM Lee Hsien Loong and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr witnessed the signing of several MOUs between the two countries on Wednesday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr inspecting the guard of honour with President Halimah Yacob during the ceremonial welcome at the Istana on Sept 7, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr (right) offering a toast during the state lunch hosted by Singapore President Halimah Yacob, on Wednesday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr (second from right) and his wife Louise Araneta-Marcos (right), with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and his wife Joy Balakrishnan, at the orchid naming ceremony on Wednesday. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Singapore and the Philippines are seeking to deepen cooperation in fields such as digital connectivity, healthcare and counterterrorism with the signings and exchanges of several agreements on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr witnessed the signings and exchanges at the Istana during Mr Marcos' two-day state visit that started on Tuesday.

Among the agreements is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on digital cooperation, signed by Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo and Mr Ivan John Uy, Philippine Secretary for Information and Communications Technology.

The MOU aims to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise in areas such as digital connectivity, data, and cybersecurity, as well as information sharing for scam calls and short message services.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Philippine Secretary of Migrant Workers Maria Susana Ople signed a joint communique for the continued deployment of Filipino healthcare professionals to Singapore.

Armed forces of both countries exchanged an agreement for a Philippine team to be assigned to the Singapore-based Counter-Terrorism Information Facility - a recent effort to bring countries together to share intelligence and provide monitoring and analysis capabilities.

In his first trip to Singapore as president since taking office in June, Mr Marcos on Wednesday called on President Halimah Yacob and was hosted to a state lunch.

Speaking at the lunch, Madam Halimah noted how Mr Marcos' father, the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr, had made a state visit to Singapore in January 1976 with his wife Imelda Marcos.

They had toured the residential housing estate in Jurong Town and visited shipyards here.

Madam Halimah said: "While Singapore's landscape has undergone tremendous change in these intervening decades, the bonds of friendship between Singapore and the Philippines have not only endured, but grown even stronger."

She noted that both countries celebrated their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2019, including with a 10-year loan of two critically endangered Philippine eagles to Singapore as part of a research and breeding programme.

"I'm happy to report that the Philippine eagles, Geo and Sam, have adapted well and are thriving in Singapore," she said.

Robust economic cooperation has grown in tandem with strong political ties, said Madam Halimah.

Singapore was the top foreign investor in the Philippines last year. The Republic is also the Philippines' biggest trading partner in Asean.

Madam Halimah said she and Mr Marcos agreed there was even more scope to expand the partnership. "We discussed our shared interests in emerging issues such as sustainability and food security during our meeting this morning," she said.

In his speech, Mr Marcos noted that relations with Singapore - a fellow founding member of Asean and one of the Philippines' closest and oldest friends in the region - have grown from strength to strength over the years.

"We see our future of the Philippines as having Singapore besides us, forging ahead to the future," he said.

"As part of our journey in maintaining political stability and economic prosperity in the region, we are one with you, in proving to the world that the strength of a country is not in its size, but in the quality of the ties it forges with the members of the community of nations, guided by the tenets of sovereign equality and independence."

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr (left) and President Halimah Yacob agreed there was even more scope to expand the partnership between the two countries. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Mr Marcos is serving a six-year term after the May election, which he won by a landslide. His late father ruled the Philippines for more than two decades before he was toppled in a 1986 uprising.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Marcos and his wife, Mrs Louise Araneta-Marcos, had a new orchid hybrid named in their honour at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Named Dendrobium Ferdinand Louise Marcos, the robust and free-flowering orchid hybrid produces flower sprays of about 50 to 70cm in length.

The Dendrobium Ferdinand Louise Marcos is a robust and free-flowering orchid hybrid that produces flower sprays of about 50 to 70cm in length. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Three other agreements exchanged on Wednesday were related to cooperation in water management, personal data protection, and urban development.

The MOU signed by national water agency PUB and the Philippine Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System aims to identify areas of common interest, including in reducing carbon emissions from water treatment systems and exchanging knowledge in water management.

The collaboration in personal data protection and cross-border data was exchanged between the Personal Data Protection Commission and the Philippine National Privacy Commission.

Another collaboration is meant to promote business opportunities in the development of New Clark City, an upcoming metropolis in Central Luzon.

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