Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has sought the Philippines' support on the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas as well as the recovery of the Bangladesh Bank's money that was lost in a cyber-heist in February 2016.
They discussed these issues on Sunday, when Ambassador of the Philippines Vicente Vivencio T Bandillo paid a farewell call on Foreign Minister Dr Momen at the State Guest House Padma.
After a posting of six-and-a-half years in Dhaka, Ambassador Bandillo is returning to the headquarters at the end of this month.
Dr Momen thanked the Government of the Philippines for all out support to the Government of Bangladesh in getting back $15 million of the $81 million stolen by the hackers and expressed hope that the Philippines' government would continue its support till the remainder of the money is recovered.
Ambassador Bandillo assured that the Philippines fully supports the Bangladesh Bank on the money recovery issue and said his government has initiated some measures to combat money laundering – which is a huge national problem.
The foreign minister noted that the Philippines enjoys close ties with Myanmar, so it should leverage its influence to resolve the Rohingya crisis.
He also said to allay the fear of the Rohingyas, Bangladesh has long been proposing the formation of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) led non-military civilian observer group but Myanmar has not come forward positively to implement this proposal.
He cautioned that if the Rohingya issue is not resolved immediately, radical elements could take advantage of the displacement, plus regional and international security would be jeopardised.
Dr Momen requested that the Philippines exert political pressure on Myanmar, together with all ASEAN members, to take back the Rohingyas.
Terming the Philippines a global leader in the services sectors – particularly nursing, marine engineering and seafaring – the foreign minister said Bangladesh is keen to sign the pending memorandum of understanding on nursing education with the Philippines as early as possible and initiate exchange programmes of student and staff nurses between the two countries.
The ambassador assured the minister of taking necessary steps to complete the memorandum of understanding soon.
Pointing out that there is a huge scope for Filipino investment in the agro-processing sector, the foreign minister suggested that Filipino franchises Jollibee and Potato Corner open outlets in Bangladesh.