DUTERTE IN THAILAND – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (right), escorted by Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, reviews the honor guard during a welcome ceremony held in honor of the Philippine leader, Tuesday, at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand. Duterte is in Thailand for a two-day visit. (AP | Manila Bulletin)

by Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos

Bangkok, Thailand – Not just Filipinos, but Thais, too.

Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon said Monday that the Thai people are also excited to see President Duterte as he starts a three-day official visit Tuesday.

In an interview with the Philippine media delegation in the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok, Aragon said Thais have been excited with the plans and programs of Duterte.

“As a matter of fact, they’re excited with his forthcoming visit. Some of them even want to join the meeting with the Filipino community,” she said.

“However, this is an opportunity we would like to reserve for the Filipinos in Thailand,” he added.

Duterte is set to meet with the members of the Filipino community at 7 p.m. today, Bangkok time, at the Royal Thai Navy Headquarters in Bangkok.

Aragon said all of the 48 Filipino community groups were invited to the said event and that 1,900 have already confirmed their attendance with more requesting to attend.

More than 14,000 Filipinos, mostly professionals, are currently working in the Kingdom of Thailand. “Over half of this (number) are Filipino teachers in the English language and principally here in Bangkok,” Aragon said.

About 2,600 Filipinos of the 3,600 registered last year voted for Duterte. The ambassador said that the Filipinos in Thailand are very supportive of the President’s anti-drug campaign.

More than 1,600 Filipinos have expressed interest by registering for the President’s meeting with the Filipino community on Wednesday evening.


During the visit, Aragon said at least three government documents on bilateral cooperation will be signed. These agreements will focus on science and technology (S&T), agriculture, and tourism.

Although both countries have already signed an agreement on tourism in March, 1993, Aragon, said the one set to be signed during Duterte’s visit will focus on expanding the areas of cooperation.

“For instance, we can learn a lot from Thailand on how they have managed to increase the number of tourist arrivals here, on infrastructure, so these are the things we will have in our tourism industry,” she said in an interview with members of the Philippine media at the Philippine embassy in Bangkok.

Aragon said Philippine institutions, and even the academe, can be encouraged to learn from the Thai counterparts so there will be joint marketing promotions.

She added that this agreement would bind the countries to the joint implementation of a five-year tourism cooperation plan.

In the field of science and technology, Aragon said, the agreement is expected to focus on areas like research and development; and help micro, small, and medium enterprises.

“The use of tech e-commerce will help both countries, especially small and medium enterprises,” she said.

On agriculture, Aragon said that the agreement which will be signed aims to improve the one signed over a decade ago on livestock and dairy production.

“This is one aspect, an area of cooperation that can be concluded between our Philippine carabao sector and Thailand’s agriculture department,” she added.


Aragon said the Thais were touched when President Duterte visited the Kingdom in November, 2016 to pay respect to the late monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

“In particular they are touched by the gesture of the President when he came here to pay his respects to the late King,” she said.

“[The] people of Thailand were very touched. Even the government officials [thought] it was really very touching,” she added.

Aragon said the Thais found Duterte relatable due to some similar traits he shares with the late beloved monarch.

“I believe siguro ‘yung appeal niya sa tao. He is concerned about having positive change in the country for development of our people,” she said.

“The late King has always been close to this people. As a matter of fact, he always tend to his people, especially in the provinces. The people of Thailand can relate very well for that,” she added.

“Ang pagnanais ng Pangulong matulungan ang mga kababayan lalo na mahihirap (The President’s desire to help his countrymen, especially the poor),” she said.


The close ties between the Philippines and Thailand were first established during the reign of the former King, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1927-2016). Both countries were co-founders of the ASEAN, and the Philippines was able to formalize diplomatic relations with Thailand on June 14, 1949 in Washington DC.

“We have also established the mechanism of what we call the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation. We are hoping that this year, we can resume the holding of the 6th Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation. This is where all areas of cooperation will be discussed by the two governments,” Aragon said.

“This year, we shall be observing 68 years of the establishment of our diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Thailand, at a time that the Philippines is hosting the chairmanship of ASEAN and also, at the same time, commemorating 50 years of the establishment of ASEAN,” said Aragon.

The long history of relations between the Philippines and Thailand may be traced back to the early 1960s when a number of Thai nationals went to the Philippines to study in schools and universities.

Both countries have established areas of cooperation involving security, political, economic, trade, educational, and socio-cultural matters.

“We also cooperate very closely for instance, in the climate change discussions; in the management of disasters, for which the Philippines is always exposed to natural disasters,” Aragon said.


Meanwhile, Aragon cited a column published in an English newspaper “The Nation,” in Thailand Monday, saying the best description of the Philippine-Thailand friendship would be as twins separated at birth.

According to the column, both countries are close allies of the US, has their fair share of ups and downs, and fought side by side as members of the UN-led international forces in the Korean War.

It added that the two countries are also the freest and most democratic members of the ASEAN, even appreciating each other’s political experience in exercising their people power.

“In particular, they shared a common desire to topple dictatorial regimes and it was indeed transformational. The Filipinos learned from the Thais how to stage long-lasting protests by adding attractions such as entertainment and good food,” it said.

“The Thais followed the Filipino campaigns of mass mobilization with strong deliverable messages. Together, their people have made public participation in the democratic process a norm within the ASEAN context,” it added.

The press system and media culture are also very similar where media organizations and journalists from both countries have longstanding cooperation and knowledge-sharing.

“Thai journalists honed their investigative skills from their Filipino friends and vice versa,” it said.


According to the column, since Duterte took office, he has already showed he shares two passions with Thais –protecting the rights of migrant workers, and a drug-free ASEAN.

“These two issues will serve as a bridge to reconnect the two countries in their future path to create a better Asean community,” it said.

“When President Rodrigo Duterte begins his two-day visit today, he will carry all the past goodwill and feel-good feeling to build on future ties with Thailand,” it added. (With a report from PNA)

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