The Philippines and Timor-Leste agreed on Friday to work together on civilian commercial aviation, social security agreement for professionals, and educational cooperation between their higher learning institutions.

In a joint press briefing following a bilateral meeting with Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said that among those agreed were reconvening the policy consultations to be hosted by Timor-Leste in the near future and exploring the possibilities of having direct flights between Manila and Dili through an Air Services Agreement.

The two nations also agreed to establish a Bilateral Social Security Agreement to provide a safety net for both Filipino and Timor-Leste professionals, and strengthen educational cooperation between their higher learning institutions as well as increase student exchanges.

The President added that as one of the mature democracies in Southeast Asia, the Philippines also committed to assist Timor-Leste in the skills formation of the Timorese people. 

“In recent months, under the direction of our Technical Cooperation Council of the Philippines, an attached agency of the Department of Foreign Affairs, we have deployed a team from our Department of Science and Technology who assisted the Timorese people in enhancing [their] skills on food processing,” he said.

“We committed to increase [our] engagements in such technical cooperation and we have tasked our respective Ministries to explore and enhance future partnerships on this matter.”

At the same time, President Marcos affirmed the Philippines’ support to Timor-Leste’s membership bid in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as he recalled the adoption of the Roadmap for Timor-Leste’s full ASEAN membership by the ASEAN Leaders during the recent 42nd ASEAN Summit in Indonesia.

President Ramos-Horta arrived in Manila on Wednesday for his state visit aimed at further strengthening the bilateral relations with the Philippines.

He said that he is very impressed by the peace, stability and the investors’ trust and confidence to the Philippine government and with its great economic growth as he affirmed President Marcos’ statement on their agreement. 

“Listening to your statement, Mr. President, I would consider it a joint statement. I subscribe to everything your Excellence has stated so, I don’t need to elaborate further,” President Ramos-Horta said. 

“Let’s expand, upgrade the relationship between our two countries … You cannot have a more warmer, more productive, healthy relationship between two country than the one enjoyed by Timor-Leste by the Philippines,” he added. 

There are 11 signed agreements between the Philippines and Timor-Leste in the fields of economic and technical cooperation, higher education cooperation, and military cooperation, among others.

Last year, Timor-Leste ranked as the Philippines’ 171st trading partner (out of 231), with total trade amounting to US$164 thousand, a decrease of 11.31 percent from 2021 figures of US$185.09 thousand.

It is the country’s 158th export market (out of 211) and 194th import supplier (out of 216).

Philippine exports to Timor-Leste increased by 1.42 percent from US$160.39 thousand in 2021 to US$162.67 thousand in 2022.

There are an estimated 1,480 Filipinos in Timor-Leste as of February this year, and last year, OFW remittances amounted to US$271,000.

The Philippines and Timor-Leste established their formal diplomatic relations on May 20, 2002, with their relations spanning 21 years. | PND

Photo Courtesy of PCO