President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena offer a toast to each other during the State Banquet at the Malacañan Palace on January 16, 2019. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MALACAÑAN — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Wednesday, January 16, hosted a state banquet for visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena calling him the Philippines’ true friend.

“Tonight is a gathering of new friends as much as it is a celebration of a returning friend. President Sirisena certainly qualifies as a true friend of the Philippines,” President Duterte said during the toast.

“He has been to our country several times and at several points. This includes Metro Manila, Laguna, and yes, even in Davao.”

The Sri Lankan leader was interested in agriculture and visited centers of excellence in agricultural research and development and also saw the bounties of Mindanao’s plantations, according to the President.

President Sirisena’s state visit is significant because it also marks the 58th anniversary of the diplomatic relations of both nations which falls within this week.

As a response, President Sirisena expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome extended to him and his delegation.

He praised the Philippine government’s stewardship of its economy despite the mounting global and regional challenges.

“The Philippines has sustained economic growth, built critical infrastructure that created jobs, and carried out its foreign policy effectively,” he noted.

President Sirisena also lauded President Duterte’s war on drugs initiative and would like to emulate the Philippines’ approach.

“[The] Drug menace is rampant in my country, and I feel that we should follow your footsteps to control this hazard,” he said.

President Sirisena reiterated his invitation to President Duterte to undertake a state visit to his country. Should this transpire, President Duterte would be the first-ever Filipino leader to visit Sri Lanka.

Balikbayan Media Center
Balikbayan Media Center

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