Republic of Korea (RoK) President Lee Myung-bak was in the Philippines from November 20 to 22 for an official State Visit upon the invitation of President Benigno S. Aquino III. Among the activities included in the State Visit were a meeting between President Lee and President Aquino, a State Dinner, and a Korea-Philippines Business Forum organized by the Philippine and Korean Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
In his speech at the Korea-Philippines Business Forum, President Aquino spoke of the rich history behind Philippine-RoK relations, beginning in 1950 when the Philippines dispatched the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) to join the 16-nation collation in defending the RoK. He also cited its personal significance, as his own father, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., went to Korea to cover this when he was still a young journalist.
President Aquino went on to speak about the “60 years of warm diplomatic ties,” that have led to “the positive collaboration that exists between the Philippines and Korea.”
In their meeting, the two leaders discussed the developments in the Korean Peninsula and the West Philippine Sea, and the reinforcement of the people-to-people relations between the RoK and the Philippines, given the number of Filipinos working in Korea, and the number of Koreans visiting, studying, or living in the Philippines.
With regards to military cooperation, in his press statement, President Aquino said, “I expressed to President Lee the interest of the Philippines to gain some specific defense articles, such as military-grade helicopters, boats, and aircraft.” The Department of National Defense (DND) is at present drawing up a list of equipment to be acquired, in line with the AFP modernization program.
The President also related the five agreements that he and President Lee signed: two (2) memorandums of understanding (MOU) which provide the framework for the growing volume of development assistance provided by the Republic of Korea to the Philippines, two (2) MOUs toward further agricultural cooperation, and one (1) MOU aimed toward addressing increasing power demand in Luzon.
The President also expressed his appreciation to the RoK government and the Korean business sector for the confidence they continue to show in the Philippines, as indicated by our countries’ positive trade and investment relations. Similarly, he thanked President Lee for their Employment Permit System (EPS), which ensures that “the more than 20,000 Filipinos working in the Republic of Korea will receive the proper treatment and the benefits commensurate to the critical jobs they perform toward the growth of the Korean economy.”
President Aquino closed the statement by reaffirming the strength of the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Korea, saying, “I have full confidence that our meeting this morning has helped position our two countries towards a more positive, dynamic, and nurturing friendship that will best serve the mutual interest of the Filipino and Korean peoples.”