Mahathir sees boost on Malaysia, Philippine economic ties due to BARMM
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad expressed optimism on Thursday that the economic activities between Malaysia and the Philippines would further increase with the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao ( BARMM).
The visiting Malaysian leader reaffirmed his government's continuous support in the development of Mindanao.
"Given the vast economic potential of this area, I believe with the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao or BARMM, we have to boost economic ties between both countries. I therefore assured Mr. President of Malaysia’s desire to continue to be of help in the development of Mindanao," he said in a joint press statement after his bilateral meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malaca?ang.
As he congratulated Duterte on the success of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the appointment of members into the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, he said he looks forward to the smooth transition of the ARMM through the interim government of the BARMM.
Duterte thanked Malaysia for its "prominent role" in the peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, resulting in the signing of the peace deal and the establishment of BARMM.
Malaysia facilitated the peace talks between the government and the MILF and is heading the International Monitoring Team overseeing the Mindanao peace process.
Mahathir said he and Duterte also discussed programs for teachers and students in Madrasahs, especially in Mindanao.
During their meeting, Duterte said they also discussed the South China Sea and Korean Peninsula issues.
"We emphasized the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight over the South China Sea, as well as the peaceful settlement of disputes. This is, without resort to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law," he said.
"We shared the international community’s hope for peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and noted efforts by relevant parties to achieve progress through dialogue," he added.
Mahathir said he and Duterte also discussed trade between the two countries, which, while it is increasing, is "largely in favor of Malaysia."
"I believe there is still room for improvement and from my meeting with Mr. President, we would encourage private sectors from both countries to explore opportunities of collaboration and venture in new cooperation and investments," he said.
Mahathir also expressed optimism on the finalization and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of health.
He noted that Malaysia has been a favorite healthcare destination for the Philippines.
The two leaders also discussed about the need to address terrorism and violent extremism through the Trilateral Cooperation Agreement.
"Under this framework, Malaysia and the Philippines together with Indonesia have agreed to undertake unilateral maritime and air patrols to tackle the growing security challenges," Mahathir said.
Prior to their bilateral meeting, full military honors were given to Mahathir. Duterte also hosted a state banquet for Mahathir and the members of his delegation.
In the joint statement, both leaders never mentioned about Sabah, which the Philippines has been claiming.
In an earlier press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo reiterated Duterte's previous statement that Sabah belongs to the Philippines.
"The position of the President as you said, we have a claim. It's true that we have a claim..that has been a bone of contention ever since, I think since the time of (late) President (Ferdinand) Marcos," he said.
But he added that he never saw Sabah on the agenda of the meeting of the two leaders. Celerina Monte/DMS