9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM9) in Laos

President Benigno S. Aquino III is in high spirits after holding successful separate bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Norway, Switzerland, European Commission and European Council.

The meetings were at the sidelines of the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM9) being held here from November 5 to 6, Presidential Communication and Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Monday.

Coloma told a news briefing with the Philippine media at the International Media Center here the President underscored the importance of these bilateral meetings as an opportunity for the Philippines to further enhance the friendship and partnership between these countries.

“The President is in a very upbeat and optimistic mood. He is satisfied with the outcome of the bilateral meetings and he feels that this is an important opportunity for the country to enhance its friendship and partnership with the countries of both Europe and Asia,” Coloma said.

The President met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Prime Minister’s Villa at the ASEM Villa which houses the Heads of State and Government attending the ASEM9 at 9 a.m. (10 a.m. Manila time).

In that meeting, Coloma said the discussion centered on improving the working conditions of our migrant Filipino workers, particularly in the healthcare sector.

“Norway confirmed its assurance for support in our efforts to land better jobs for Filipino migrant workers particularly in the healthcare sector in Norway and the easing or procedural improvements to create better opportunities for qualified Filipino workers,” Coloma said.

He added that Norway, the European Commission and the European Council had pledged their support for the country’s bid to retain our standing in the International Maritime Organization white list

“This means that we will be complying with all the requirements of the standards for training and certification watch-keeping of seafarers (STCW 198 Convention),” Coloma said.

In his meeting with Swiss Confederation President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the President extended his thanks for the confederation’s assistance in further developing our expertise in disaster risk reduction and management.

“The President thanked Switzerland for their assistance in heightening our know-how and competence in disaster risk reduction and management,” Coloma said.

Lastly, President Aquino’s trilateral meeting with European Council President Herman Von Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso centered on improving maritime security within the West Philippine Sea to ensure the safety of goods and people traversing the highly travelled body of water.

Coloma said all meetings the President had “went very well” with all discussions on “increased opportunities and intensified cooperation.”

“The three bilateral meetings between the Philippine panel headed by President Benigno S. Aquino III and Norway, Switzerland and the European Commission and European Council; respectively went on very well,” Coloma said.

“The common thread on all discussions were on increased opportunities and intensified cooperation,” he added.

He pointed out that the three nations were enthusiastic in congratulating the Philippines for finally achieving peace in Mindanao with the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

“We see this as a genuine opportunity for reaping peace dividends including increased investments into the Philippines and Mindanao in particular,” Coloma said.

He added that in return, the Philippines expressed its support for the requests of Norway and Switzerland in its bid to become members of ASEM.

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