From March 21 to 23, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was on a two day official visit to Thailand following his trip to Myanmar (See: “What Did The Philippines’ Duterte Achieve During His Myanmar Trip?”). Apart from some gains in the bilateral relationship, the trip also completed his swing through Southeast Asia during Manila’s holding of the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year.
Duterte’s two-day visit – his second to Thailand following a brief one last November to pay respects to the late king Bhumibol Adulyadej – consisted of meetings with several top Thai officials including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. He and his delegation also had meetings with the Thai private sector and the overseas Filipino community in Thailand.
The main deliverables from the visit were on the economic side. Three deals were inked on science and technology, agriculture, and tourism. Both sides also extended an agreement for the Philippines to procure Thai white rice out to 2018.
The two sides also discussed ongoing economic reforms in both countries and ways to boost bilateral trade and investment in several areas like services, digital content, energy, agriculture, and innovation, as well as in specific areas like special economic zones and corridors. The first meeting of the Joint Trade Committee is expected to be hosted by the Philippines later this year.
But other areas were also a focus during the trip as well. On the security side, for instance, the two sides discussed a range of issues including terrorism, trafficking, and cybersecurity. The two countries are expected to hold the first meeting of their Joint Committee on Military Cooperation later this year.
The two sides also discussed broader regional and international issues. Thailand issued its standard support for the Philippines’ ASEAN chairmanship, which we have also seen from other Southeast Asian states Duterte has hit on his subregional tour. Prayut and Duterte also both issued boilerplate statements on preserving peace, stability, and security in the South China Sea, with Duterte including a reference to respect for freedom of navigation and overflight and the need for the conclusion of a code of conduct in his remarks.
Duterte and Prayut both agreed that the bilateral relationship ought to be strengthened even further. Prayut said that the countries had agreed to expedite the conclusion of three key pending agreements on air services, defense industry, and education. Duterte’s Communications Secretary Martin Andanar also announced that the two sides had decided to craft a bilateral pact on communications covering TV, radio, print, public relations, and social media management.