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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed his desire to enhance “defence cooperation” with India, as he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two sides signed a defence cooperation agreement. He was accompanied by five Cabinet-rank ministers from the Philippines side.
He is also committed to improving the public health system and wants Indian infrastructure companies to pitch in his flagship “build, build and build programme”, Ministry of External Affairs’ Secretary (East) Preeti Saran said on Monday.
Four agreements were signed between the two countries, which covered areas of defence, agriculture, small and medium enterprises and tie-up between think-tanks. She said that the idea is to have private and public enterprises to cooperate in the defence sector, including on the off-shore patrolling vessels.
“President Duterte and PM Modi had an excellent meeting,” Saran said, adding that “Duterte said he would like to have very good relations with India”.
Modi arrived in Manila on Sunday on a three-day visit to the Philippines, during which he will attend the 15th India-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the 12th East Asia Summit tomorrow.
This is the first bilateral visit by an Indian PM to this Southeast Asian nation in 36 years after the visit of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1981, though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Philippines in 2007 for the ASEAN summit.
Earlier in the day, Modi contributed two Indian rice seed varieties to the gene bank of the international rice research centre in the Philippines which he said is working towards mitigating global poverty and hunger by improving the cultivation of the key grain.
He also visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, an urban locality around 65 km from Manila — the capital of the Philippines — and interacted with several Indian scientists working there.
A number of scientists at IRRI briefed the PM on flood-tolerant rice varieties which, they said, can withstand 14-18 days of submergence and provide 1-3 tonnes more yield per hectare in flood-affected areas.
Modi said the flood-resistant rice varieties that can withstand 14-18 days of submergence would help farmers and enhance their income. “Salinity tolerant rice varieties will help farmers where the soil is saline, for example Kutch. I also saw a drought tolerant rice variety that can help farmers in times of droughts,” Modi tweeted. Modi said he was also shown drones that could be used in the agriculture sector and help farmers.
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A ‘rice field laboratory’ named after PM Modi was also inaugurated by him at the institute. He unveiled a plaque marking the inauguration of the Narendra Modi Resilient Rice Field Laboratory. “A contribution from India to IRRI… presented two Indian rice seed varieties to the IRRI gene bank,” the PM tweeted.