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Stronger trade, diplomatic relations seen between East Timor, Philippines

Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos Horta expects stronger trade and diplomatic relations with the Philippines under President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. Filipino investors have "ample opportunities" to invest in Timor-Leste, he told reporters after a meeting with Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday. Timor-Leste, the 21st century’s first sovereign state, is “going to build roads, bridges, a new port, airport, housing, hospitals so Philippine investors have ample opportunity to seek opportunity there," he said. If Filipino companies “don’t move fast and aggressively it would be other countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and China who will get the investor opportunity there." “We start from almost ground zero. It means we have nowhere to go but up, forward in terms of infrastructure development," said Ramos Horta, co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize. The country imports a lot of goods from Indonesia, Australia, and China but very little from the Philippines. “We are very much an open market and there are already some Filipino construction companies," Ramos Horta said. He also boasted of the country’s $200 million monthly revenues from its oil and gas exports. “We have a strong revenue from oil and gas, that’s our main export. The economy is growing about 10 percent," Ramos Horta said. Timor-Leste is very peaceful and stable now with the help from the United Nations, which includes the Philippines, he said. On separate occasions, Ramos-Horta invited President Aquino and Vice President Binay to visit his country. The Timor-Leste leader visited Aquino in Malacañang earlier in the day then met with Binay at his office in Pasay City later. “I hope that with the new administration, we can further enhance this very unique relationship and I talked with President Noynoy today… It is time for a Filipino president or vice president to visit East Timor," he said after holding a meeting with Binay. He said he had been in the country for 20 times, since his time as an activist in the 90s, and the latest was during the burial of Aquino's mother, former President Corazon Aquino, August last year. For his part, Binay refused to elaborate on his meeting with Ramos-Horta saying it was "chika-chika lang (just a friendly talk)." He said the Timor-Leste leader wanted to emulate Makati’s healthcare system. - RJAB Jr/KBK, GMANews.TV