VIENTIANE/MANILA, Philippines (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN): The Philippines and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) have vowed to work closely together to strengthen cooperation in various fields, including health, education, trade, and people-to-people exchange agreements, Malacañang announced this week.

According to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and newly-appointed Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphadone have both agreed to work with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) toward the collective benefit of the regional bloc.

“We have 2,000 more or less Filipino nationals who are living in Lao and working in Laos, and we are very proud of the contributions that they have made, especially in the educational sector,” Marcos said during the bilateral meeting with the Lao official, as quoted by the PCO.

The meeting was conducted at the 42nd Asean Summit plenary session in Indonesia on Wednesday.

The President also cited the Philippines’ robust healthcare system which was tested during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But also there’s much more to that; there’s also an educational aspect, and I think that we have the basis in our agreements, and we can build upon that regard,” Marcos said.

He added that education can also be an area that the two countries can promote “now that things are beginning to open up.”

Aside from tourism, Marcos also pointed out that the two nations can boost the professional exchanges in terms of work, adding that the similarities between the Philippines and Laos “have been well noted and are to the advantage of” both countries.

Siphadone also relayed an invitation for President Marcos for a state visit to Laos.

“I would like to extend an invitation from His Excellency Thongloun Sisoulith, President of the Lao PDR, to Your Excellency to make a state visit at a time of convenience for you,” Siphadone told Marcos, as quoted by the PCO.

In return, Marcos also extended an invitation to the Prime Minister and his President to visit the Philippines.

He also said he looks forward to working with the Lao government, noting that the Philippines and Lao “have had a very long and fruitful relationship.”

“We have always felt that this has been a relationship — that although this has been a long-standing one that we can further develop. We had a very good working relationship with your predecessor, and we certainly look forward to continuing that during your chairmanship for ASEAN in the next ASEAN sessions,” Marcos said.

“The Philippines and Laos as I said, have had a very long relationship, but it is something that — there’s much potential now that our economies, especially here in ASEAN and around the region, have begun to show signs of life after the pandemic,” he added.

He added the two nations could start to discuss trade in terms of investment on the possibility of the Lao officials’ state visit to the Philippines. – Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

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