LABUAN BAJO, Indonesia — The Philippines and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) have vowed to work closely to strengthen cooperation in various fields, including health, education, trade, and people-to-people exchange agreements.

President Marcos meets with Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone on the sidelines of the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia on May 10, 2023. (Yummie Dingding/PPA Pool)

President Marcos meets with Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone on the sidelines of the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia on May 10, 2023. (Yummie Dingding/PPA Pool)

This developed following the bilateral meeting between President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and newly-appointed Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone on the sidelines of the 42nd Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) here.

In a statement, the PCO said Marcos was proud of the contributions of around 2,000 Filipinos living and working in Lao PDR to its educational sector.

“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,” the President said, saying education can also be an area that the two countries can promote “now that things are beginning to open up.”

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

Marcos also mentioned possible health cooperation, especially with the Philippines’ “robust” healthcare system tested during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Long, fruitful relationship

President Marcos said he looks forward to working with the Lao government, noting that the two countries “have had a very long and fruitful relationship.”

“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 Lao PDR, 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.

With this, Siphandone relayed an invitation to President Marcos for a state visit to Lao PDR. Lao President Thongloun Sisoulith made the invitation.

In return, President Marcos also invited the Prime Minister and his President to visit the Philippines.

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.

Meanwhile, both leaders agreed to work also with their fellow ASEAN leaders toward the collective benefit of the regional bloc.

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