Duterte to talk trade in Myanmar 

President Rodrigo Duterte with the 8th Infantry during his visit at Camp Vicente Lukban in Catbalogan last year.

The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte received a jubilant welcome from Myanmar’s Filipino community when he landed at Nay Pyi Taw.

The embattled president may sign a memorandum of understanding with Myanmar on food security and agricultural cooperation during his visit to Myanmar, said his ambassador in the country, Alex Chua.

Duterte hoped to meet Filipino expats and sign trade deals during his two-day visit.  

The Philippines’ major imports from Myanmar are agricultural goods, while it mainly exported medicines for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, Chua said.

The agreement may cover cooperation to plant hybrid rice initially on 14,000 Burmese hectares using Philippine technology, according to Henry Lim Bon Liong, CEO of SL Agritech Corp, a hybrid rice seed firm in the archipelago. 

Lim is part of Duterte’s private-sector delegation joining the visit.

He hoped Duterte “will be able to set foot on a hybrid rice field soon and ensure that we won’t need to import rice”, Lim said. 

The pilot planting in Myanmar would be a joint venture with private firms Nine Seas and Water Stone, Lim added.

Since 2013, Filipinos can visit Myanmar without a visa and stay up to 14 days.

The majority of Filipinos in Myanmar are teachers, lawyers, engineers and humanitarian workers.

Chua said the number of Burmese students in the Philippines was also increasing.

“It is these exchanges between Filipinos and Myanmar nationals that strengthen our relations,” Chua added.

Chua said Duterte would visit the expat community in Yangon, where most of the community lives.

Yangon is where the majority of Filipinos in Myanmar live, Chua said.

During last year’s election, Duterte reportedly won more than 56-per-cent of votes from expat Filipinos in the newly democratic nation.

Last year, the Philippines ranked as Myanmar’s 16th largest investor. 

Philippine firms which operate in the opening economy include United Pharma, Liwayway Corp., Asia Brewery, Splash Corp, Manila Water, ComWorks and Universal Robina Corp. 

Chua said he expected Duterte’s talks with President Htin Kyaw, who will soon mark a year in office, to “include talks on improving trade and investment relations”. 

Duterte was set to meet the increasingly illusive State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to “discuss regional cooperation” and powerful Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief, to “explore deepening of bilateral defence cooperation”, Chua said. 

Myanmar is the last Asean partner for Duterte to visit. 

He visits Thailand next. 

Picture credit: Wikimedia