Indonesia’s Jokowi to visit Philippines on first tour

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Indonesian President Joko Widodo is scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on Sunday as part of his first bilateral trip abroad after assuming office last October.

Having visited Malaysia and Brunei, the president – known popularly as “Jokowi” -- is set to arrive in capital Manila on Sunday upon the invitation of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, whom he will meet the following day.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs has released a statement saying that in the spirit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) solidarity, it was a tradition for a new head of state to pay introductory visits to member states.

Jokowi is expected to meet with Aquino to discuss a range of matters of mutual concern including migrant workers issues, maritime cooperation, defense, trade and investment, according to the statement.

Indonesia ranked as the Philippines’ 11th largest trade partner in 2013, with the total volume between the countries amounting to more than $3.6 billion.

In May last year, the two countries signed a landmark agreement with the aim of effectively clarifying the maritime boundary between the Philippines’ southern Mindanao islands region and North Sulawesi province in Indonesia.

Indonesia is also among the countries that have sent military and civilian contingents for the International Monitoring Team overseeing a ceasefire between the Philippines’ government and its one-time largest rebel group. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a peace deal with the government in March last year aimed at resolving a decades-long conflict that has seen more than 120,000 people killed.

Jokowi’s visit comes as the Philippines waits to hear whether Indonesia will grant a case review for a convicted Filipina drug smuggler on death row.  

The Philippines has formally requested a judicial review of the case of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, 30, who was arrested for allegedly trafficking 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia in April 2010. She was sentenced to death in October the same year.

While there has been no word on whether Aquino will bring up Veloso’s case with Jokowi, a memorandum of understanding on combatting illegal drugs is expected to be signed during their meeting, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Armanatha Nasir told reporters Thursday.

Last month, Indonesia executed five foreigners and a national despite international pleas for a last minute reprieve, leading to Brazil and the Netherlands recalling their ambassadors from Jakarta.

As part of his tour, Jokowi has already visited Malaysia and Brunei and is scheduled to stay in the Philippines until Tuesday.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency