PH signs air services pact with Italy to beef up trade, tourism ties

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President Benigno Aquino III (L) met with Italian President Sergio Matarella (R) on Thursday (December 3 PHT).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Benigno Aquino III met with Italian President Sergio Matarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Thursday (December 3 PHT) in Rome, Italy.

The meeting focused on strengthening bilateral ties especially in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Philippines-Italy diplomatic partnership.

Both leaders witnessed the signing of an air services agreement (ASA) to pave the way for direct flights between Manila and Rome benefiting Filipinos and investors coming from Rome. They also talked about further improving bilateral trade and investments.

Other issues discussed during the meeting were the Italian government's participation in the Mindanao peace process through the Italian assistance to the Agrarian Reform Community Development Support Program, as well as the Philippines-Italy Debt for Development Swap Program.

The visit of the president will help sustain the exchanges of high-level visit — the last of which was held in 2006.

President Aquino was accompanied by his cabinet secretaries during the bilateral meetings including Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.

The highlight of Aquino's visit in Rome will be the meeting with the Filipino community there. Around 171, 000 Filipinos are working in italy.

After his Italy trip, he will proceed to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis on Friday (December 4), which will be a reciprocal visit following the pope's visit to the country in January this year.

They will be discussing the bilateral cooperation between the Vatican and the Philippines, as well as other issues like climate change and the rehabilitation efforts in Tacloban which Pope Francis showed interest in when he visited the area.