KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- President Benigno S. Aquino III said that among the country's gains in his two-day state visit in Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's reaffirmation of its assistance for Mindanao once a final peace pact is signed.
Malaysia wants to help attain peace in Mindanao, improve its trade, and create a banking and financial system in the region, Aquino said.
In an interview with Philippine media at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Friday, Aquino said Malaysia has been helping the Philippine government maintain peace in Mindanao for a decade, working as a facilitator in talks and sending monitoring teams and other components of the peace process.
In his meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the Prime Minister noted that the two-way trade between the Philippines and Malaysia has reached around $4.5 billion, with a lot of room for improvement.
With the Philippines having a huge population -- around 100 million -- increasing trade could benefit the country and its neighboring ASEAN countries such as Malaysia.
"And this should happen immediately," the President quoted the Malaysian leader as saying.
Malaysia, which has expertise in Islamic banking, is also willing to assist the country in putting up Islamic banks in Mindanao once a final peace agreement is signed.
"We have a state institution-financial institution that should cater to the banking needs of our Muslim brothers, which is called Al-Amanah. And what Al-Amanah has succeeded in doing from the time it has started was to basically exhaust the capital that was infused into it," he said.
"The MILF has been asking that it be turned over to them or we will actually sell them the entity, so that a new entity with the necessary expertise will be able to service the banking needs in conformity with the principles of Islam," he added.
In his meeting with the business community here, the President also invited Malaysian businessmen to come to Mindanao and invest.