Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Philippines, Korea to sign defense MOU

President Benigno Aquino III is all set for his third trip out of the country this month, as he prepares to depart for South Korea. The leaders of both countries are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on defense cooperation.

According to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Raul Hernandez, the MOU "will cover a wide range of cooperation from exchange of visits by military personnel and experts to humanitarian assistance and international peacekeeping activities."

Hernandez said the MOU will allow for more general cooperation.

"This is a very general MOU and this would be a basis for detailed agreements or activities later on once both countries decide to undertake these activities," he said.

Hernandez said this is not the first time the two countries will be having a defense-related MOU, but he added, it will "enhance" defense cooperation between the two nations.

For instance, the bilateral agreement is broad enough to allow for possible exchange of visits of military personnel and experts, and maybe even military students or other people interested in further studying defense issues between the two countries, Hernandez explained. He added that the MOU will focus on humanitarian assistance.

There are existing talks on Korea helping the Philippines procure equipment and enhance capabilities, Hernandez said, "given the security situation in the region." Among the equipment being discussed are a ship, helicopters, and some rubber boats.

He said, "Korea could help us in the upgrading of our forces" through grants, loans and donations.

Aquino will travel to the Republic of Korea for a two-day state visit from October 17-18 after he was invited by President Park Geun-hye.

It will be their first summit meeting together.

Other activities

Aside from signing the defense MOU, the two leaders will also meet to discuss "bilateral issues such as political dialogue, defense cooperation, trade and investments relations, official development assistance, consular and labor cooperation and people-to-people exchanges… [and] regional issues."

On Day 2, Aquino plans to meet with the Korean business community to discuss investment opportunities in the Philippines. Korea is one of the country's major investment and trade partners, and remains the Philippines' top source of tourists.

The President will also meet with Korea's Filipino community and confer the Order of Lakandula on Representative Jasmine Bacurnay-Lee of the Korean National Assembly, the first naturalized Korean to be elected.

Lee is from Cavite and Davao, and will be recognized for promoting multi-culturalism and promoting rights of women migrants.

Hernandez said there is no final list yet as to who will be accompanying the President on his trip, but said Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo will surely be coming, along with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.

Aquino's trip comes just a week after he made back-to-back trips to Indonesia and Brunei for the APEC and ASEAN summits, respectively. - Rappler