Philippines: Laos seek to expand deal on basic education


MANILA — The Philippines and Laos are seeking to expand bilateral cooperation with a future agreement on basic education, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said the two nations are finalizing the deal, noting that both are in agreement “investing in education is investing in the future”.

The DFA has yet to provide details on the coverage of the deal but it will follow the 2017 signing of Philippine-Laos Academic Cooperation in Higher Education.

“Between us, we have some of the youngest populations in Southeast Asia,” Manalo said in his policy speech at the Lao Institute of Foreign Affairs International Cooperation and Training Center.

“We know that the promise of the ‘demographic dividend’ can be fulfilled only if we ensure that our young people are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to fulfill their potentials and become drivers of social progress,” he added.

Cooperation on education vital for Philippine-Laos ties

To date, the largest group of Philippine nationals in Laos is in the education sector.

”This Filipino contribution to the education of this country—to the very task of nurturing the future generation of your nation– evokes deep sentiments of kinship between our two peoples,” Manalo said.

Manila is also working with Vientiane on the promotion of girl child’s rights, which Laos advocates through the Noi program, which provides a platform for partners to address the challenges Lao girls face in education, sexual and reproductive health, and nutrition, among others.

“Indeed, the empowerment of girls and women is a shared task that our two governments take very seriously. The Philippines, as the top country in East Asia in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index, ranking 16th out of 146 nations in 2023, has much to share in this regard,” Manalo said.

Supporting Laos development

Aside from education, the Philippines has been a strong supporter of Laos’ pursuit of sustainable and inclusive development.

As the two states celebrate 68 years of diplomatic ties this year, Manalo hopes for stronger bilateral cooperation with the Southeast Asian nation, specifically in ensuring food security.

He also sees a potential for deeper engagement in the area of renewable energy and infrastructure.

“[A]s far as the Philippines’ support for Laos’ sustainable future and resilient economy is concerned, there is no better sign of the way ahead than the new facets of cooperation emerging in renewable energy and infrastructure,” he said.

“In fact, a Philippine company, ACEN Renewables, has taken a significant stake in the Monsoon Wind Power Project, which is the first wind power project in Laos and the first cross-border renewable energy project in Asia. This investment supports Laos’ Green Growth Strategy and Smooth Transition Strategy,” he added.

In addition, Manalo said agreements in agri-fishery and forestry cooperation, including those involving centers for education, “offer rich potentials to achieve higher and greater agricultural growth and productivity”.

Manalo is in Vientiane this week to co-chair the 2nd meeting of the Philippines-Laos Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation with Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith. (PNA)