The Philippines and Italy expressed solidarity in their fight against global terrorism, following the recent series of terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere.
President Benigno S. Aquino III and Italian President Sergio Mattarella issued the statement during their bilateral meeting at the Quirinal Palace in Rome on Wednesday.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., who was present during the closed-door meeting, said that both leaders shared the view that it is vital to exert efforts toward de-radicalization in the campaign against global terrorism.
The mass shootings and suicide bombings, which the Islamic State launched in Paris on Nov. 13, have drastically impacted the tourism industry across Europe, affecting Italy and other neighboring countries of France. The two leaders also discussed how the Philippines has been dealing with its own terrorism issues.
Coloma said the Bangsamoro Basic Law framework for peace building was explained as Italy expressed “great interest” in its progress. “¨
Coloma said that during the bilateral meeting, the West Philippine Sea maritime dispute was mentioned, as Italy affirmed the Philippines’ adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in upholding freedom of navigation in the area.
The Philippines is pursuing a legal battle against China through the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which Italy believes is an “appropriate path” towards peacefully resolving the dispute.
Aquino also thanked Mattarella for the support Italy has provided for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and debt for development programs.
Coloma said the Italian leader also raised the concerns shared by many European countries with respect to migrants and refugees fleeing war, while President Aquino cited the Philippines’ record in assisting asylum seekers.”¨”¨
On a lighter note, Italy congratulated the Philippines for its successful hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit just two weeks ago, Coloma said. “¨”¨
Rome also lauded Manila’s high economic growth rate and its anti-corruption efforts.
Mattarella commended the significant contributions of more than 171,000 Filipinos in Italy. Both leaders also acknowledged the need for improved relations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union.
Mattarella affirmed the Philippines’ stance in the South China Sea issue, saying all claimants must respect the rule of law.
The Italian leader also expressed his country’s support for the upholding of the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and acknowledged the path that the Philippines has taken for the peaceful resolution of the dispute now pending before the International Arbitral Tribunal.
Mattarella raised the European Union’s concern over the influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East as many EU members still grappling with the issue at this time.
Aquino, on the other hand, cited the Philippines’ record in assisting refugees.
On the Philippines’ domestic affairs, the Italian president expressed great interest in the Mindanao peace process after President Aquino briefed him on the ongoing peace initiative in the south.