PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and his Cambodian counterpart have agreed to expand their trade in rice as well as in tourism promotion, the Palace said on Monday.

El Niño has affected Philippine rice production, Mr. Marcos told Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet in a bid to expand the sources of rice the Philippines can tap.

“We really need to look back and engage in terms of trade in agriculture, rice specifically. When I visited you in Cambodia last time, that was the subject we were talking about. We were preparing for this drought. It’s now happening,” according to Mr. Marcos, who visited Cambodia in November 2022 for Southeast Asian leaders’ summit. 

“We really have to be flexible in looking at our suppliers.”

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has estimated damage and losses to agriculture due to El Niño of P357.4 million. Western Visayas was the most affected region, incurring damage worth P127 million.

The government weather service, known as PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), last week said temperatures could hit 40 degrees Celsius once the Amihan season ends this month.

Cambodia’s production of unmilled rice was estimated at 10.9 million tons in 2020, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Mr. Marcos and the Prime Minister also committed to address double taxation issues.

The two countries began formal talks to address double taxation in 2018.

“Under the agreement, residents of one country receiving income in another contracting state, or vice versa, will not be taxed twice for the same income, property or investment,” the Palace said.

“The agreement also provides tax relief in the form of exemptions or preferential tax rates.”

The two leaders also sought to boost tourism cooperation by increasing air connectivity.

Cambodia has increased air services to Manila, the Prime Minister told Mr. Marcos.

“We now have flights, five times, from Cambodia to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport,” the Prime Minister said, noting that his government is considering Cebu as an additional destination for Cambodians. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza