MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte is set to leave for Brunei Thursday afternoon, marking his first international trip since declaring martial law in the entire Mindanao.
Duterte will be attending the golden jubilee celebration of Brunei’s Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah's ascension to the throne on Friday, October 6.
The President will have an audience with Bolkiah Friday evening before attending a royal banquet dinner. He will leave Brunei on the same day and return to Davao City.
Bolkiah, one of the world’s wealthiest royals, made a state visit to the Philippines in April.
Duterte’s Brunei trip is his first since the start of clashes in Marawi City, a sign of the leader’s growing confidence that the crisis in the predominantly Muslim city will soon be over.
Duterte was in Russia when Islamic State-inspired terrorists laid siege on Marawi City last May 23. He declared martial law in the entire Mindanao while there, and had to cut short his trip and rush home.
Aside from Duterte, organizers said Bolkiah’s high-profile guests include Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Meanwhile, Duterte has designated Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea as government caretaker during his trip.
BOLKIAH MARKS GOLDEN JUBILEE IN STYLE
Brunei's all-powerful and fabulously wealthy sultan marked 50 years on the throne in spectacular style Thursday, traveling in a gilded chariot through the streets and holding a tradition-filled ceremony at his golden-domed palace.
Tens of thousands of well-wishers waving the country's flag lined the streets and cheered as Bolkiah, the world's second-longest reigning monarch, passed by in a chariot pulled by dozens of his subjects.
Marching bands took part in the colorful procession as it made its way through the streets, the highlight of about two weeks of celebrations to mark the golden jubilee of one of the world's wealthiest men.
An absolute monarchy with strict Islamic laws, Brunei is one of the world's wealthiest nations thanks to abundant oil and gas reserves.
Celebrations got under way earlier at the sultan's sprawling palace, where an honor guard performed a 21-gun salute and the ruler and his wife sat on golden thrones for a royal audience.
The 71-year-old ascended to the throne of the Muslim country perched on the north of tropical Borneo island in October 1967.
He is the 29th sultan of Brunei from a royal family that has ruled the country continuously for over 600 years.
His decades in charge of one of the world's few absolute monarchies have seen the country gain full independence from Britain and living standards soar to among the highest in the world due to its huge energy reserves.
The sultan only comes behind one sovereign in terms of having the longest reign -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended to the throne in 1952.
She became the world's longest-serving monarch a year ago following the death of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose reign spanned seven decades. -- with a report from Agence France-Presse