President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. with Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Fiala during the welcome ceremony at the Kalayaan grounds in Malacañan Palace in Manila on Monday, April 17, 2023. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Fiala met at the presidential palace in Manila on Monday, discussing mutual interests including defense cooperation, trade, labor deals and cultural ties.

At a briefing after their 4 p.m. meeting, Mr. Marcos said Mr. Fiala and he had discussed regional issues including the Philippines’ sea dispute with China and the China-Taiwan conflict.

“We had a very interesting exchange of views regarding regional and international issues, including the West Philippine Sea and cross-strait relations, and the war in Ukraine, amongst others,” the Philippine leader said.

He said they had both emphasized the two countries’ “shared commitment to democracy, to human rights and the rule of law.”

The two countries signed a defense cooperation agreement in 2017 and set up a defense committee, which met for the first time in 2019.

The two leaders last year met on the sidelines of the commemorative summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and European Union in Brussels, where they talked about the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization program.

Mr. Marcos said he had also told Mr. Fiala during their meeting the Philippines is a “strategic location” in Southeast Asia and that it has the potential to be a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.

“We recognize the importance of building on the existing areas of cooperation and exploring new opportunities for collaboration,” he said.

“We shared positive developments in the Philippine economy, including our high gross domestic product growth rate and strong economic outlook in the context of a difficult and volatile world economic situation,” he added.

Mr. Fiala is also set to visit six other countries during his 10-day visit to Asia.

Earlier, the Czech official said the goal of his Asian trip is “to improve and develop relations with countries in this region and support Czech companies in local markets.”

“The Philippines is a fast-growing economy and I am glad that Czech companies are and will be operating here in many areas, for example defense, aviation or transport,” he said.

Business relations between the Philippines and Czech date back to the 1930s. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza