JAKARTA (Updated 5:32 p.m.) — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr met with his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo on Monday for a state visit focused on bolstering defence, trade and other ties between the two neighbours.
The trip by Marcos, the son and namesake of the late ruler who was overthrown in a popular uprising 36 years ago, is his first official venture overseas since his landslide election victory in May.
President Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, said the leaders had signed a defence and security cooperation agreement, a five-year diplomatic action plan, and agreed to speed up and review maritime borders arrangements.
Trade between the countries had increased by nearly 50% compared to last year, Jokowi said, calling for border trade to be developed further and transport routes revitalised.
Speaking alongside Jokowi at the state palace in Bogor, Marcos said both nations were committed to maintaining regional stability through the 10-member regional grouping, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“We also spoke at length about the role that we believe ASEAN should play while we faced difficulties, (at) this very volatile time in geopolitics, not only in our region, but also in the rest of the world,” he said.
“We agreed that ASEAN is going to be the lead agent in the changes that we would like to see in continuing to bring peace to our countries.”
The Jakarta Post newspaper in an editorial on Monday said the visit would also be a chance for the new president to lobby Widodo on the case of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino on death row in Indonesia for drug smuggling, although neither president publicly mentioned the case.
The leaders share joint security concerns with suicide bombings in both countries, including on churches, in recent years. The involvement of Indonesian fighters in the 2017 takeover of the Philippines‘ Marawi City by Islamist militants had also demonstrated what analysts say are linkages between regional extremists.
Marcos, who described Indonesia as one of his country’s closest allies, is due to meet business leaders with his economic team later on Monday and will fly to Singapore on Tuesday.
—Reporting by Ananda Teresia and Zahra Maharani in Jakarta and Enrico Dela Cruz and Karen Lema in Manila; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Martin Petty, Ed Davies