PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has committed to continue working closely with the government of Brunei to maintain the “excellent” bilateral and diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“Your sincere hospitality reaffirms the esteemed friendship that is always valued deeply by my people. We will continue to work closely to maintain the excellent ties between our nations and peoples,” Duterte said at a state banquet hosted by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah at his official residence, Istana Nurul Iman.
Both governments have agreed to deepen cooperation in various areas of development such as trade and investment, maritime security, achieving lasting peace in Mindanao and building a stronger Association of Southeast Asian nations.
Describing Brunei as a “true friend,” the President said the two nations should not just count on each other to achieve shared objectives but must continue “to view each other with the respect, mutual trust and confidence that have defined the Philippines-Brunei relations for the past 32 years.
Sultan Bolkiah expressed confidence and full support to Duterte hoping that his successes and achievements as long-time mayor of Davao will be replicated throughout the entire Philippines and bring inclusive growth.
“Mr. President, we look forward to continuing our close people-to-people contact and deepening the warm and long-standing friendship and cooperation between our two countries,” he added.
He likewise committed to work closely with the Philippines with regard to the revival of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia- Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) initiative that was launched in 1994.
“Under BIMP-EAGA, we will also continue to work closely with you to see this sub-region grow and develop, including in nurturing our Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, conserving the environment and enhancing connectivity through infrastructure development and tourism,” the sultan said.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the countries had good bilateral meetings that “will lead to stronger trade investment economic and security cooperation. I can feel brotherhood between two leaders.”
“Our President himself outlined low hanging fruits such as BIMP-EAGA or Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippine East Asia Economic, through greater inter-connectivity like in transport air sea to encourage flow of goods and services, movement of people [and] tourists,” he said in a message Tuesday en route to China.
One of the two special projects involve a campaign promise to institute regional micro funding for bottom of the pyramid like small market vendors and make 5-6, or the so-called “loan shark” system illegal.
Second is to revive heritage local industries like the Marikina shoe industry and Mindanao Silk under the Buy Philippine products! campaign.
“Our bilateral with my counterpart plus the leaders’ bilateral led to series of commitment and next steps to be worked out by the next level ministers in Joint Committee on Bilateral Cooperation,” said Lopez.
In addition, both countries agreed on a cooperation in strengthening Halal certification to improve marketability of Philippine Halal products, that will further bump up agri-business and tourism, sectors with plenty of micro, small and medium entreprises (MSMEs).
Lopez noted the increasing number of Muslim tourists looking for Halal resorts and tours.
Trade Department figures showed that total trade between the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam from January to October 2014 was $84 million, with Philippine exports amounting to $8 million and imports from Brunei amounting to $75.6 million.
The Philippines gave assurance that the government will strengthen protection on investments and stable policies and will continue the provision of attractive incentives and long term lease for all investors.
“President Duterte is bridging a sea of friendship and breaking the sea of barrier. Bringing back peace and fair commerce and movement of people, bringing back smooth harmony in the region which was present in historic times,” said Lopez.
There are 23,000 Filipinos working and residing in Brunei.
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