MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday welcomed to Manila Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, vowing to enhance security, economic and cultural ties with the first Southeast Asian leader to hold a state visit to the Philippines under his administration.
Bolkiah, who flew his own plane on his coming to the Philippines Wednesday, said he was glad to be back and see improvements in the country’s economy.
“Since my arrival, I have seen many economic activities which showed the rapid development taking place in your country. I also admire the personal impetus you have given in ensuring that such progress benefits and improves the livelihood of your people,” Bolkiah said in his opening statement during the two leader’s bilateral meeting.
Duterte, for his part, said he held Bolkiah’s visit with great importance, as the latter was the first leader from a member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to hold a state visit here.
“Your Majesty’s presence is proof of enduring ties and special friendship enjoyed by our nations and peoples. Your Majesty is the first ASEAN head of state to visit the Philippines under my administration. This to me imbues our meeting today with great significance,” Duterte said.
Duterte visited Brunei in October last year, and the sultan’s visit to the country was set to build on discussions and agreements made during that trip.
“Since my state visit to Brunei in October last year, we were looking forward to this occasion to reaffirm a partnership that continues to hold a great promise. This even as we have made significant strides over three decades of formal diplomatic relations,” Duterte said.
“We are eager to bring this partnership to a whole new level. We hold this meeting against the historic backdrop of ASEAN summit. We are reminded of the milestone celebration of 50 years of the association’s establishment.
PH, Brunei to boost security, economic and cultural ties
During the bilateral meeting, the two leaders underscored the importance of further strengthening defense ties through regular meetings, training activities, and intelligence conferences.
The two countries' defense cooperation shall focus on countering terrorism, violent extremism and piracy at sea.
Duterte also thanked Brunei for its continuing support for the Mindanao peace process through its presence in the International Monitoring Team and the Independent Decommissioning Body, as well as Mindanao’s development.
On the economic front, the two sides are expected to explore new trading areas such as infrastructure, agribusiness, and food processing including halal.
The sultan’s visit also yielded agreements on cultural cooperation and halal industry development.
The pact on cultural cooperation aims to promote and enhance knowledge and understanding of visual, musical and performing arts, literature and cultural activities between the two countries.
The agreement on halal industry and halal products development, on the other hand, provides the framework for bilateral cooperation towards an exchange of investment, products, technology and best practices.
Apart from his state visit, Bolkiah will also take part in the Asean Summit.