PHILIPPINES- President Marcos has articulated Manila’s keen interest in forging a potential rice supply agreement with Cambodia, in response to the looming challenges posed by the El Niño phenomenon on the Philippines’ food security. 

During a bilateral meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet on the sidelines of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Australia Special Summit, President Marcos underscored the urgency of engaging with Phnom Penh on agricultural matters, particularly focusing on rice trade.

Reflecting on past discussions during his visit to Cambodia in 2022, President Marcos emphasized the critical need to revisit and revitalize the Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) about agricultural trade, especially in light of the current drought situation exacerbated by El Niño.

President Marcos stated, “It caught our attention. We really should look into it. Something that is necessary now. That’s the lesson learned from the pandemic. We really have to be flexible in looking at our suppliers.”

Acknowledging the progress made in bolstering domestic palay production, President Marcos emphasized the importance of fortifying ties with rice-producing nations like Cambodia to ensure the Philippines’ rice inventory remains secure.

In a statement issued by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), it was revealed that both the Philippines and Cambodia have agreed “to explore increased rice supply cooperation” in response to the impending agricultural challenges posed by El Niño.

The Philippine government had previously warned of potential agricultural damage in numerous provinces due to El Niño, with assurances from the agriculture department regarding the adequacy of rice, corn, pork, sugar, and other essential commodity supplies.

Despite the challenges posed by El Niño, the PCO reported that the rice supply in the Philippines is projected to remain stable throughout the year, with an annual average surplus of 3.7 million metric tons or approximately 99 days of buffer supply.

Beyond agricultural matters, President Marcos and Prime Minister Hun also delved into discussions concerning connectivity, trade, and investment. Prime Minister Hun expressed a desire to enhance connectivity and boost tourism between the two nations, highlighting the potential for increased flights between Cambodia and the Philippines.

President Marcos welcomed the proposal, citing ongoing efforts to modernize airports and develop regional infrastructure to facilitate tourism and business exchanges between the two countries.

As President Marcos prepares for further bilateral engagements, including with New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, the commitment to strengthening ties and exploring avenues for collaboration underscores the Philippines’ proactive approach to navigating regional challenges and fostering mutual prosperity.

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