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Kalam reaches Philippines on three-day visit

President will sign a slew of agreements in defence, agriculture and tourism with Philippines during his visit.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2006 13:01 IST

President APJ Abdul Kalam arrived in Manila on Friday from Singapore for a three-day official visit.

President will sign a slew of agreements in defence, agriculture and tourism withPhilippines during his visit.

Kalam was received at the airport by Philippines Vice President Nolid de Castro.

Philippines Foreign Secretary Alberto G Romulo said in a statement that the defence agreement would deepen naval and maritime cooperation and strengthen the bilateral annual security dialogue.

The Indian Cabinet has already cleared the defence agreement.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperation in agriculture will strive to promote technical cooperation through joint activities in rice production and processing, soil and water conservation and management, agro forestry, dairy and livestock improvement and sugarcane technology.

The accord on tourism focuses on long-term cooperation in the sector, exchange of information, expertise and best practices in management of tourism businesses.

President Kalam will hold talks with his Philippines counterpart Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Saturday with trade and investment on top of their agenda, Romulo said.

The Philippines is keen to secure Indian investment in the health and technology sector where the economies of both the countries can complement each others' strong points - BPO and medical tourism market.

The three MoUs are expected to energise India's sagging relations with a country, which is the second largest in ASEAN and whose location has geostrategic significance.

At the start of his current tour, Kalam had said one of the purposes of his visit to the Philippines was to boost bilateral trade to more than $500 million and explore cooperation in stem cell research.

The Philippines has also identified India as a major source of affordable quality medicines. Pharmaceutical is one of the major items of export from India to Philippines.'

Indian officials expect that Kalam's visit would provide an opportunity to assess the state of bilateral ties and to strategise them in areas like health, pharmaceutical, tourism, information and communication technology and dairy sectors.

For long years, Cold War years and US bases in the Philippines had clouded ties between New Delhi and Manila.

The US bases were removed from the Philippines in 1992, around the time India embarked on its 'Look East' policy under the Congress government headed by PV Narasimha Rao.

While India's relations with the ASEAN country rapidly deepened and diversified, the ties with the Philippines, which has high-level of literacy, strong civil society, free press, pluralist cultural matrix, remained limited.

Even the exchange of high-level visitors has been very few and far between. The last time an Indian Prime Minister to visit the country was Indira Gandhi and that too for a stop- over on her return to India from Australia.

The last time an Indian President had paid an official visit to this country was R Venkataraman in 1991 and the previous occasion a Filipino President had gone to India to break the ice was Fidel Ramos in March 1997.

Trade between India and the Philippines stood at $577 million with India's exports rising to $395.16 million and imports to $181.92 million.
Like trade, Indian investment in the Philippines too had remained limited for long. The first joint venture (featuring the Birla group) was set up in 1975 producing yarn, which caters to 40 per cent of this country's market.

Nearly a decade later, the second Indo-Philippines venture took shape with Global Infrastructure Holding Limited, promoted by Pramod Mittal's Ispat Group, brought out the National Steel Corporation of Philippines, located in Mindano province once infamous for Islamic insurgency, in 2004 for 225 million dollars. It now exports cold rolled sheets to China.