Saturday Apr, 20 2024 06:46:39 AM

PBBM, Anwar vow to enhance political, security, trade cooperation

GOVERNANCE/POLITICS • 07:00 AM Thu Mar 2, 2023
Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim agreed Wednesday to strengthen political, security, and trade and investment cooperation between the Philippines and Malaysia.

This developed after the two leaders held a bilateral meeting at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Wednesday afternoon.

Marcos said he and Anwar had a "cordial and productive" discussion on the Philippines and Malaysia's bilateral cooperation, reaffirming their desire to revitalize the two nations' relations amid the shift to the "new normal."

"As immediate neighbors, the Philippines and Malaysia recognize the importance of maintaining peace and security in our region. As such, we agreed to continue our cooperation on political and security matters," he said in a joint statement delivered at the President's Hall of the Palace after his bilateral meeting with Anwar.

Anwar also reaffirmed that the two nations’ defense and security ties are “strong and growing.”

“We share common borders and to an extent quite porous. Therefore, the collaboration needs to be further enhanced,” he said.

Anwar said he and Marcos also made a commitment to resume the 8th Joint Commission Meeting, the two countries’ main bilateral consultative mechanism which will be hosted by Kuala Lumpur “at a mutually convenient date” this year.

“Guided by shared interest, multidimensional bilateral cooperation and vibrant people-to-people interaction, President Marcos Jr. let me assure you that the new administration in Malaysia will be more than happy to further enhance this collaboration,” he said, noting that Malaysia and the Philippines’ bilateral cooperation is “multisectoral covering trade and investment, education, health, agriculture, health, tourism and culture.”

Marcos said he and Anwar also made a commitment to boost Manila and Kuala Lumpur's trade and investment ties to develop the halal industry, improve the agriculture sector and promote digital economy.

"With the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and geopolitical upheavals challenging our national economies and the prospects of a global recovery, we agreed to reinvigorate trade and investment exchanges with a special focus on halal industry, agriculture and food security and the digital economy," he said.

Anwar expressed elation over Marcos’ resolve to explore cooperation in “new and important” sectors such as halal industry and food security.

Intensifying efforts to increase both trade and investment would yield “tremendous benefit” to the two countries, the Malaysian prime minister said.

Peace-building initiatives

Marcos said the Philippines and Malaysia, as founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), have ASEAN Centrality embedded into their regional outlook.

“We have thus resolved to support development and peace-building initiatives within this group, including the importance of achieving a resolution to the situation in Myanmar,” he said.

This, as Anwar said the still unresolved Myanmar crisis is affecting Malaysia “adversely,” citing the “huge number” of refugees which now exceeds 200,000.

“Now the President in his wisdom has reiterated the need for the Five-Point Consensus but I would certainly suggest with his experience of wisdom to explore new areas how Myanmar junta can be persuaded to work and collaborate as a team within ASEAN and resolve the outstanding issues which cannot be considered as purely internal because it’s affecting the security and welfare of the region,” Anwar said.

Anwar also noted that the "century-long contentious issues" concerning the peace process in Mindanao are also affecting the ASEAN region, including Malaysia.

He promised that Malaysia, as a "good neighbor," would continue to support and facilitate the peace process in the southern Philippines.

"And I stand guided whatever things need to be done at the bilateral, multilateral level to support this endeavor. It has to succeed in the interest of the Philippines and Malaysia and the region and then utilize this enormous potential to the benefit of our people," Anwar told Marcos.

"And under your leadership President, you have seen great strides in this direction. Malaysia will also continue to offer assistance to the Bangsamoro people through various capacity-building programs including through our Malaysia Technical Cooperation Program," he added.

Marcos lauded Malaysia for its "great contribution" to attain peace and order in Mindanao.

He expressed optimism that Malaysia would continue to contribute to the success of the peace process.

"We commended the progress made towards achieving sustainable and inclusive peace in Mindanao. It is the culmination of years of effort and sincerity amongst all parties, which will soon realize the dividends of peace," Marcos said. "I therefore invited Malaysia to continue supporting the Philippine government’s efforts to bring development and enhancement to the livelihood of Mindanaoans."

Marcos made the call, as he emphasized that Anwar's visit is a testament to the two nations' "enduring friendship as ASEAN brothers who share the same vision of prosperity and of peace."

Anwar, the 10th prime minister of Malaysia, is the first head of government to visit the Philippines under Marcos' watch.

An official welcome ceremony was held at the Palace's Kalayaan grounds upon Anwar's arrival.

Marcos also hosted a dinner for Anwar at Malacañan's Ceremonial Hall. (PNA)

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