Papua New Guinea and the Philippines have signed an agriculture co-operation agreement.

It’s one of the outcomes of a bilateral meeting between the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte and PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill who is in Manilla on a state visit.

The leaders issued a joint declaration which outlined moves to expand cooperation in agriculture and agro-industries.

This includes technical support for PNG in production of rice and industrial crops; aquaculture and inland fish farming; livestock breeding and improvement; and agri-business development.

In a joint press statement, the two leaders said they also discussed defence and security cooperation, trade and investment relations, and people-to-people exchanges.

Anti-logging sentiment is strong in East Sepik villages.

Ahead of his three-day visit, Mr O’Neill spoke of the long standing relationship between people of both countries, which dates back to the 1800s when Filipino missionaries accompanied European Catholic priests to live in PNG.

“Today, there are more than 35,000 Filipinos living in our country, making them largest group of expatriates in Papua New Guinea.

“Many Filipinos provide services in sectors that include healthcare and education, as well as working in many businesses,” the PNG leader said.

Export of round logs is the main economic activity in West Sepik, but the profits largely go abroad.

Mr O’Neill identified technical support in rice production as the key agricultural area where Fillipino expertise can help PNG.

“In rice trials conducted by Philippines agricultural experts, they have found our soil can yield double the rice per hectare than is possible in many countries in South-East Asia,” he explained.

“This is because our soil is extremely fertile and for the most part has never been used for commercial agriculture or been exposed to pesticides. rnz